Day 1: A steep climb

On Day 1 of my Telluride Experience I was struck by the enormity of our failures in healthcare and the depth of the human impact of those failures. I was also extremely impressed by the frankness and honesty of the faculty. I am also feeling very lucky to be here and learning with talented students from around the country.

I was recently taking care of an older gentleman with cancer who has been a very successful leader in his field. He was willing to speak with me at length about his experience and the lessons he has learned. It seems that his leadership is a role model for the kind of leadership that is being advocated here. He shared some of his new goals, which are not only focused on surviving, but thriving. He also told me each step he was taking to meet those milestones. He emphasized the amount of work that transformational change requires in both his industry and in fighting his disease.The commonality, he said, is that “The only way to achieve your goals is to work for them.” We face a steep climb in healthcare to overcome the failing systems, mismatched incentives, and consequently terrible outcomes. If we are going to change this, it takes the hard work of culture change and leadership that we are learning here. We have to face our collective failures, our individual attitudes and misconceptions, and we have to keep patients first, middle, and last in everything we do.  We have to work very hard as leaders to achieve these goals in the face of stagnant culture, but with the right tools we can give our patients better, safer care.

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