Inspiration, insight & networking prove invaluable

Generous contributions to Suffolk Healthcare Programs’ Beyond-the-Classroom-Fund enabled two Suffolk students to attend a major industry event: the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s 21st Annual National Forum on Quality Improvement in Healthcare in Orlando, Florida, in December 2009. Emma Mandell (MBA/Health 2010) and Jocelyn Charest (MHA 2010) returned home with a richer store of insights into an industry that’s undergoing historic transformation, and with many new professional contacts.

Based in Cambridge, Mass., the IHI has long been a highly respected progressive force in the healthcare field. Its profile soared in March 2010 with news that its CEO, Dr. Donald M. Berwick, would be nominated by President Obama to head Medicare and Medicaid. A highlight of the Forum was Dr. Berwick’s provocative and richly informative keynote address. (It can be downloaded from IHI’s web site. See, too, Paul Levy’s blog about it.) Citing dramatic success stories of quality initiatives, he stated that, “More and more, we know what works.” The challenge is to apply it, of course.

While the forum is billed as “national,” the more than 5,500 attendees came from 41 countries, and satellite broadcasts expanded its reach. Over the course of three days, Emma and Jocelyn attended sessions on topics that included hospital performance, pandemic planning, patient safety, social media, and the roles that various healthcare providers can or should play.

Notable, they reported, was the broad range of other attendees’ backgrounds, which included, for example, architecture and engineering. An exhibit hall with hundreds of exhibitors offered opportunities for networking with potential employers and other professionals, and for learning what’s happening in hospitals around the world. Altogether, this made for a rich mix of perspectives on how to improve healthcare delivery.

Suffolk Healthcare Programs established an IHI student chapter in 2008. As student members, when Emma and Jocelyn arrived at the IHI Forum, each was paired with a mentor. They were also paired with a group of other students, with whom they exchanged ideas about IHI student chapter activities. What they learned will help shape Suffolk’s chapter, which hosts regular meetings that feature instructional videos, discussions, and guest speakers.

Emma and Jocelyn agree that the IHI forum was invaluable as a source of practical information and inspiration. “It is up to us, professionals working in the field of healthcare, to improve this broken system,” they wrote in a follow-up report on their attendance. “We hope to be the change agents needed to do just that!”

To learn about Suffolk’s IHI chapter, please contact or call 617-305-1769.

Emma Mandell and Jocelyn Charest contributed to this story.