Department of Pathology Updates - Vol 2.6

By Jeffrey Myers | March 7 2017


Hard to believe it’s been 6 weeks since I last sat down to share some thoughts in Updates.  This hiatus in no way reflects a lack of content but the effects of competing priorities which is a weak excuse at best.  Since the last edition of Updates, it has been made freely available on our website under the Pathology News banner starting with volume 2 – you can check them out under the category "Jeffs DOP Updates".  Walking back to my office with the usual Einstein ham-and-swiss bagel it seemed to me a good morning to celebrate our collective successes and share some thoughts about ongoing challenges and opportunities.  If there is something about which you’d like to learn more, or if you have stories of your own that you would like to share with your teammates, please send me an email, call my office at 647-6409, or stop me in the hallway.


Deb’s Story

Jeffs DOP Updates | Debbie Postiff's Surgery
Debbie's x-rays and casting after the accident.
November 21st, 2015 started off like most Saturday mornings do: breakfast, gym [AFS] and then off to the barn to ride. Everything was going great until my horse spooked and we had a  parting of ways. My horse, Odie, veered to the left while I fell to the right, landing with almost all my weight on my outstretched right hand and arm.

At the ER the x-rays showed multiple fractures; my initial reaction was of great frustration. As I sat there, my frustration turned to resolve: instead of feeling sorry for myself, I thought, “What positives could I take from this situation? What can I learn from this?”  From my emergency room bed, I called AFS and asked the front desk staff to let my practitioner (Sawyer) know that I had fractured my arm and that I’d need a lift for Monday morning without any upper body movements.

A trip to the Orthopedic surgeon a couple days later revealed a comminuted distal radius fracture (aka the force of impact splintered my bone into multiple fragments), an ulnar fracture and damage to my middle finger. Nine days after the fall I headed to the operating room . . .

Jeffs DOP Updates | Debbie Postiff
Debbie Postiff
Many of you may recognize Debbie Postiff, someone whom you have no doubt passed by if you ever travel between the hospital and our Medical Sciences and Medical Sciences Research buildings.  You may know Deb as a key member of Tom Giordano’s tissue procurement team who with her colleagues makes sure we take full advantage of what our patients so generously share with us in the hope that our discoveries will make available to others opportunities not yet accessible to them.  What you may not know is who she is when she’s not working for our patients and the research community that benefits from their bequests.  I stumbled onto this blog, shared with Deb’s permission, fascinated at how she managed to turn adversity into opportunity.  Like the many other stories that percolate through our health care system, it serves as a reminder of why Michigan Medicine matters in the world.  Deb’s story also serves as a reminder that, "life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it," (attributed to Charles R. Swindoll).  Click here to read the rest of Deb’s story.  As her trainer, Sawyer Paull-Baird, said, "Deb took a negative situation, and turned it into a positive learning a lot about herself in the process."


Michigan Medicine: Our Promise

The term, brand, has several meanings, but the definition that resonates most with me was one that I heard years ago in which Horst Schulze, co-founder and long-time President of Ritz-Carlton, described a brand as a promise.  He was clear to say that a brand is not a logo, it is not a slogan, and it is not a label.  A brand is a promise, in our case a promise that the interests of those who look to us for care will be at the center of all that we do, whether it be the care that we deliver today or the care that we deliver tomorrow made better by incremental and breakthrough innovations delivered from a platform of  research and education.  A promise that our focus will be not only on what is the matter with them, but also on what matters to them understood from a place of dignity and respect, transparency, and collaboration.  A promise that whatever the address – Medical Center Drive, East Ann Arbor, West Ann Arbor, Briarwood, Brighton, Northfield, or anywhere else – when they walk through our doors they will be greeted with the same level of compassion, care, and expertise that they would get anywhere else in our growing health care system.  And Schulze reminded us that those whose experience falls short of what we promise will be unmoved by our logo, our slogan, or our label.  At Michigan Medicine we promise excellence across all three of our missions, beginning with the care that we provide to patients and their families today.

What then is our brand in the Department of Pathology?  How do we articulate the promise that sets us apart from our peers, and how do others translate that when imagining our place in the universe of academic pathology departments?  Simon Sinek argues that "People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.  And what you do simply proves what you believe."  In many respects our brand is our why – our promise – to continuously transform the experience of patients and their families through innovative laboratory solutions while educating and nurturing our students, trainees and one another, and expanding the boundaries of knowledge through research and discovery.  That is why we are here.  It is why we exist.  It is why it matters to the world that there is a department of pathology at Michigan Medicine.  Balancing our investments across all of our missions is driven by our why, which in turn informs the promise that we hold in common as stewards of our patients’ – both present and future – interests.  And our promise – our why – is to transform the experience of health care, maintain the health of populations, and continuously improve the quality, safety, and efficiency of our laboratory services with a relentless determination to design and redesign sustainable models of care in which value is defined not by us but by those we serve.  What we do and how we do it differs little from other peer pathology departments, but understanding why we do what we do is key to separating great departments like ours from those that are merely good. 

And our brand – our promise . . . our why – is the thing that allows us to recruit the very best and brightest, an essential element to getting it right when it comes to great organizations as so elegantly articulated by Jim Collins in his durable best-seller, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap . . . and Others Don't.  We cannot deliver on our promise unless we are able to recruit not only the best and the brightest but more importantly those whose aspirations resonate with our own.  Those who will walk the talk every day.  In an interview with Forbes in 2012, Horst Schulze of Ritz-Carlton fame described the importance of recruiting the right people when it comes to delivering on a promise. 

I think it is immoral to hire people to fulfill functions, a chair has a function. We hire people to join us and be part of us; their job/function is incidental. You hire a human being to be part of dream and part of a vision.Horst Schulze of Ritz-Carlton

I was thinking about this while attending the annual meeting of the Association of Directors of Anatomic and Surgical Pathology (ADASP) in San Antonio on Saturday.  A colleague from a well-known peer institution shared her/his experience in visiting us some time ago.  She/he described ours as the "ideal department" and went on to talk not about our buildings or the city of Ann Arbor but instead about our people.  She/he commented on the sense of mutual respect and collaboration that permeates our work.  And she/he commented on the kindness demonstrated in the ways that we interact with one another.  Another attendee from a peer institution with a rich history in pathology described our department as more "forward looking" than her/his own and said in a follow-up email, "I just wanted to pack up my bags and follow you to UMich."

That is the rewards realized from working together to transform the experience of care today and tomorrow.  That is who we are.  That is our brand.  That is why we are here.  That is our promise to those who look to us for care and to those who join our team.  To treat others and one another as anything less is a failure of our brand and a breach of all that we promise to those who come to us as patients, as students, as teammates, and as colleagues.


. . . And Now For Something Completely Different

Sometimes you just need to take 5 minutes to rest your brain and think about something altogether different.  The evidence is that doing so increases rather than diminishes productivity.  So when you have 5 minutes and an internet connection that allows you to take full advantage of audio, watch this YouTube clip.  It speaks to the beauty of creating art from things that others may dismiss as child’s play.  And it speaks to hope for reasons that I cannot fully articulate.  It is called, Romancing the Wind

Whew!!!  This went on much longer than planned when I first sat down to write.  Thanks for checking in with Updates.  Send me an email if you have comments or something that you would like to share next time.  Until then, let’s be careful out there . . .