On Wednesday, we visited the Arlington National Cemetery, located just outside of Washington, DC. After nearly a two-hour bus ride, I wondered aloud why the Telluride directors had selected this site, as I could see no real connection with patient safety. But I could not be more wrong.
After a brief walk through the cemetery, Paul and David stopped us in front of Arlington House. What followed was a very impressive speech linking the foundation of America to the practice of medicine. In effect, America was founded on the ideals of freedom and the “pursuit of happiness,” but the 400,000 soldiers buried in Arlington National Cemetery can be seen as our mistakes as a nation. Likewise, about 400,000 patients die each year from preventable medical errors in a “noble” industry where the ideal is to save every patient from unnecessary suffering.
It can be so easy to think of each patient as a single event, but walking through the cemetery hammered home the scale and impact of our work as healthcare providers. I’m interested in health policy and hospital administration because I want to make a broad impact that extends beyond individual patients, and I can see no better cause to fight for than patient safety. This is why this visit made the biggest impact on me out of all of the activities we’ve done so far.