South Carolina patient safety champions recognized at annual event

Seven recognized for their achievements in health care quality and patient safety.

The Lewis Blackman Patient Safety Champion Awards were created in 2008 to recognize individuals who demonstrated exemplary dedication and leadership in advancing the quality and safety of health care for patients across South Carolina. The awards are named in honor of Lewis Blackman, a bright, talented 15-year-old who died in 2000, after an elective surgical procedure due to preventable medical complications.

His mother, Helen Haskell, has provided inspiration for this award with her dedication to promoting patient safety and quality improvement across the state and the nation. The awards celebrate the achievements of individual patient safety champions in South Carolina, establish a benchmark of excellence in health care quality and patient safety and inspire others to great deeds on behalf of patients and their families. The 2013 winners have championed the cause of patient safety at all levels of the South Carolina health care system through leadership, innovation, execution and tireless advocacy.

Caregiver Award

Christine Gerber, MD Chair, Waccamaw Community Hospital Perinatal Committee and Lisa Maselli, MD, Georgetown Hospital System

Gerber and Maselli are obstetricians at Georgetown Hospital System who share a strong commitment to women’s health care.  In 2009 they recognized a need for practice improvements in obstetrical care and established the IHI Perinatal Improvement Taskforce. 

In the past few years the physicians have spearheaded numerous policy updates and practice changes.

They assisted in the development and approval of evidence-based protocols, implemented multidisciplinary drills for obstetrical emergencies, instituted the use of standardized terminology for fetal monitor tracings, and initiated patient representation on the task force. 

As a result, the doctors have increased compliance with obstetric bundles and best practices to over 90%, and have reduced early elective deliveries (before 39 weeks) to almost zero.

Gerber and Maselli have demonstrated leadership skills by working to provide information, education, and coaching to other obstetricians and midwives as well as nursing staff and hospital executives.

Healthcare Executive or Manager Award

Pat Foulger, Vice President of Quality and Risk, Beaufort Memorial Hospital

Foulger is a visionary leader who has offered outstanding leadership, guidance, and support for patient safety and quality programs at Beaufort Memorial Hospital. 

She has played a critical role in quality improvement through her leadership of the hospital’s Antimicrobial Stewardship Project – decreasing MSRA resistance and reducing antibiotic usage by 70%.

Foulger created a team that has collaborated successfully with other community health care organizations to help prevent avoidable hospital readmissions. In addition, the team focuses on improving outcomes and the overall health of the uninsured population – by partnering with local businesses and congregations to provide healthy lifestyle education.

The VP has led multidisciplinary professional staff in safety and quality projects in several areas, including increasing the staff’s knowledge and understanding of emergency preparedness and the establishment of orthopedic and stroke care programs.

Most recently, she oversaw the development of a memory clinic to assist patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

Foulger works with quality and safety groups regularly to address Root Cause Analysis and create opportunities for improvement within the hospital. Her non-punitive approach inspires trust and creates a positive learning experience for the staff. 

Advocacy Award

Rosemary Gibson, author, former senior program officer, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Gibson is a leading United States patient advocate who played a significant role in the very early days of patient safety in South Carolina. 

As an officer with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, she led the IHI program Pursuing Perfection at McLeod Hospital – the first major patient safety initiative in South Carolina.

Her first book, “Wall of Silence: The Untold Story of the Medical Mistakes That Kill and Injure Millions of Americans”, was one of the most influential books of the early patient safety movement. In it, she looked at patient safety through the vehicle of patient stories, three of which were from South Carolina. One of those was the story of Lewis Blackman. 

Gibson’s featuring of Lewis’ story helped bring it to national attention, and this in turn helped with passage of the Lewis Blackman Patient Safety Act and the subsequent close involvement of patient advocates in patient safety efforts in South Carolina. 

She is also the author of “The Treatment Trap” and “The Battle Over Health Care”, and recently collaborated with Bill Moyers on “On Our Own Terms”, an influential PBS documentary concerning end-of-life care.

Innovation in Research and Care Delivery Award

William Berry, MD, Program Director and Lizabeth Edmondson, Senior Project Manager, Safe Surgery 2015, Harvard School of Public Health

Berry and Edmondson have been actively working to promote and improve quality and patient safety for South Carolina surgical patients since 2010, when renowned surgeon and author Atul Gawande, MD chose to pilot his Safe Surgery:2015 program in the state.

The program’s goal is to assist hospitals with implementation of the World Health Organization’s surgical safety checklist. Every hospital in the state should have their own unique version of the checklist in place by the end of 2013.

All South Carolina hospitals have committed to this initiative.

Based on previous studies, the successful implementation of a surgical safety checklist can save more than 500 lives per year.

Through three waves of an educational series, including regular webinars and in-person meetings, Berry and Edmondson have coached hospital and ambulatory surgery center representatives on best practices for using checklists.

In addition, they have developed an operating room team training program, and work to monitor the impact the use of a checklist has on operating room culture and patient outcomes.

Student Champion of Patient Safety Award

Susie Robinson, graduate student, Clemson University

Robinson is a graduate student in the Department of Industrial Engineering and leads the IHI Open School Chapter at Clemson University.  She has worked to transform the Open School chapter from a faculty-led to a truly student-led organization.

She also developed a volunteer component for the chapter, planning opportunities for members to give back through the ClemsonLife program and to the surrounding community through the South Carolina Benefit Bank.

During SC Mission 2012, the student conducted studies that helped to identify bottlenecks and opportunities for improvement.

She also worked with local clinics to identify process improvements that would reduce patient wait times. She is the primary author of a related academic paper submitted to the 2013 Industrial and Systems Engineering Research Conference titled, “An Effective Nonintrusive Approach to Time Studies in Health Care.”

Robinson is currently working with faculty members on a project examining how the use of personal health information management systems affects health outcomes, and a data-mining project expected to shed light on critical associations between patient safety events.

Robinson is studying clinical and health science research concurrently with engineering, as she believes industrial engineering has an essential role in improving healthcare systems.