Hi, y’all. I’m Rachel, a project coordinator at the IHI Open School. Some of you have probably seen my name at the bottom of emails or my smiling face at the IHI National Forum, but I’m still getting to know many of our students and Chapters. I got a great opportunity to do just that in my hometown of Houston late last year.
It was an experience that filled me with pride – and with help of Chapter Leader Joshua Liao, provided me with several lessons to share with new and experienced IHI Open School Chapter Leaders.
Early in the fall, I had the pleasure of working closely with Joshua, a third-year medical student and current IHI Open School Chapter Leader at the Baylor College of Medicine (BCM), to plan the first annual Houston IHI Open School Convention. The goal of the one-day convention at Texas Medical Center (the world’s largest medical center) was to use education and networking to expose attendees to important issues in patient safety and quality improvement.
The convention – a product of collaboration between IHI Open School Chapter leaders from BCM and the University of Texas Medical School at Houston – brought together student s and professionals from a wide array of educational institutions and hospitals from Houston and surrounding cities. It was inspiring and energizing, and surpassed all of the expectations we had set.
Following the convention, I asked Joshua to share details of the experience so that other Chapters could learn from them:
Who was involved in planning the event?
Early in the planning process, I took the lead in the overall vision for the event in terms of format, timing, content, and discussed these things with several other student leaders/officers before touching base with Rachel from the IHI Open School. Once that was broadly set, I moved forward with publicity with the help of a few other officers from the Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) Chapter –Jehan Alladina, Harman Kular – and Tyler Willliams , a medical student and IHI Open School Chapter Leader from UT-Houston Medical School. A number of other BCM and UT-Houston students – notably Varun Kumar, Jonathan Huang, and Mitchell George –helped with a number of pre-event and event-day responsibilities.
What topics did you include in your event agenda?
I chose two main topics - diagnostic error and safety culture - as the focuses for the event for three reasons: they are emerging, 'hot topic' issues in safety/quality, they are pertinent to the daily experience of health professions students, and we have a few of the nation’s leaders in these topics here in the medical center.
How did you select the speakers?
Given my desire to focus on safety culture and diagnostic error, Dr. Eric Thomas and Dr. Hardeep Singh were perfect choices. They are each leading researchers in these areas, respectively, and they are both very active in academic and educational roles within the UT-Houston and BCM communities.
How did you advertise the event?
I was admittedly ambitious with the scope of the event. I wanted to involve as many local Houston institutions as possible (whether they had IHI Open School Chapters or not), as well as a number of out-of-town chapters, knowing that regardless of eventual attendance, the effort and publicity from this kind of event would create important awareness and precedent for the future. As such, my team and I set out to advertise to all the hospitals and health professions schools (medical, physician assistant, pharmacy, nursing, etc.) in the medical center and also sent out invitations to other Chapters in surrounding cities. For local schools, we used paper flyers along with class-wide emails, and for hospitals we sent out invitation emails. For the Chapters and institutions further away, I drafted template letters that were sent to the appropriate deans, chiefs, and/or Chapter Leaders. We also set up a Facebook event to use social media to publicize the event and used eventbrite.com to set up an online invitation.
What was the biggest challenge you encountered during the planning process?
With the scope of this event, the biggest issue was date selection. Because everyone (speakers, student leaders, potential attendees) had increasingly busy schedules, choosing a date that worked for everyone proved to be a more difficult task that I originally imagined.
Is there anything that you learned about planning the event that other students would benefit from knowing?
Honestly, probably too many to count. But by way of overall lessons, I took away two big lessons from this event:
1. Don't be afraid to think big - While there's a time and place for smaller events, I think that if awareness and publicity of the Open School and safety/quality in general is a main goal, students shouldn't be afraid to think big (by inviting speakers, publicizing the a larger demographic, or selecting creative programming). As I learned, there are a lot of great secondary benefits to planning an event this way, even if the attendance doesn't reflect the number of invited students and professionals. From this event, I've already received several emails from people who've never heard of IHI wanting to join Chapters, and several leaders who weren't able to attend but mentioned they would love to be involved in something like this in the future. So in my case, thinking big created new connections and started new relationships that I couldn't have imagined beforehand.
2. Mind the details - For students who want to undertake planning a similar event, I would recommend that they do a large portion of groundwork before presenting or soliciting ideas from others. As mentioned before, in my experience, the planning process can stall in the early stages if student leaders wait on each other to get the ball rolling, which can be time consuming and very low yield. Whether the final agenda remains unchanged or not (in my experience it's actually a good sign if the agenda goes through multiple revisions!), having something concrete to present to other leaders and planners to discuss was immensely helpful. Because for better or worse, as one of the lead planners, the other leaders/organizers will be looking to you to fulfill that role to get the process started.
-Rachel Bissonnet, IHI Open School Project Coordinator