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First Person: Our Challenge Sponsors (Audio Interview)

Our sponsors at Sutter Health talk about the challenges they see and their hopes for this initiative.

Photo of Jim Rosenberg
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Shoshana Ungerleider, M.D, Chris Waugh, and Jim Hickman are influencers within Sutter Health – the sponsor of this challenge. We talked with them about their experiences, the issues they see at the end-of-life, and the changes they hope to see flow from this community. Their empathy and passion for this challenge really jumped out at me, and it reminded me that our sponsors are, more than anything else, co-conspirators and fellow community members. Listen to them share their thoughts, in their own words, and you can hear that passion come through.

Meet our Sponsors

Shoshana Ungerleider, M.D., is a philanthropist and physician specializing in internal medicine at Sutter Health’s California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco. She is a member of the board of trustees for the CPMC Foundation and started a comprehensive palliative care education program for the resident physicians at CPMC. 

Chris Waugh is the Chief Innovation Officer at Sutter Health. He leads the Design & Innovation team whose goal is to create friction-free healthcare that is simple, engaging and human. The team supports the launch of product and service experiences, partners externally with world-class thought leaders and companies, and helps create a culture of innovation across the organization.

Jim Hickman is the CEO of Better Health East Bay, one of the philanthropic fundraising foundations within the Sutter Health system. Better Health East Bay focuses on raising funds to change the way healthcare is delivered at the community level.

In your view, what are some of the biggest challenges with the end-of-life experience we should think about?

Chris: If we are not having a conversation about the end of life earlier then too many things are crammed into the clinical context...

Jim: Patients can be more concerned about being at the right hospital than being with the right people at the end of their life...

Shoshana : Healthcare providers are not taught in a coordinated fashion how to talk to patients...

Why work with the OpenIDEO community? Of all the ways you could tackle these challenges, why did you choose this approach?

Shoshana: We're not quite sure what the end product will be, but that’s the really exciting part...

Chris: It invites everybody in no matter what your walk of life or your profession or where you live...

Jim: This was such a unique way to help a bunch of people who were trying to heal or honor a loved one, to really elevate that conversation...

What do you hope to do with the inspiration and ideas after the challenge? What do you see as the potential from this challenge?

Jim: It is individuals who have often led the way. I hope that we can catch fire as an organization and demonstrate inspired leadership after this very compelling conversation...

Shoshana: My hope is for Sutter Health to become a leader in end of life patient care and serve as a national model for how we can do this better...

Chris: I hope that people meet on this platform to conspire to bring things to life. There is a universal truth just looking through the inspiration right now that binds us in our humanity, and that alone is fantastic…

Why is this conversation about end of life so important to have? 

Shoshana, Chris, and Jim all talked about the value of engaging with the end of life experience. Jim shared a personal story, as a father and as someone whose mother died when he was young, which really captures "how important it is to get this conversation started early to release the humanity that we all have."

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

Everywhere we look there are unique and powerful experiences from which we can learn. How can we get the most diverse mix of voices possible involved in this challenge?


Join the conversation:

Photo of Amy Holliday

As a hospice RN of 30 years, I've advocated for these powerful conversations and facilitated open communication with hundreds, if not thousands, of families!
The goals in this challenge are splendid and my participation eager!
The dream of ARK Community Wellness Programs is that together as a community, we will influence the delivery of advanced care planning and wellness resources at the community level. Through one Act of Random Kindness at a time, we will empower the voices of individuals and communities so the medical world listens!
Embracing these conversations at a grassroots level, by embracing the cultures and traditions at individual and community levels will empower expressions of what matters most in their own "medical homes."
I imagine the OpenIDEO community combining best practices from all our grassroots efforts and rolling out a collaborative calendar to create a friction-free healthcare environment, taught in a coordinated fashion!
I propose we combine efforts of Sutter Health, The Conversation Project, Death Over Dinner, National POLST Paradigm, Being Mortal other passionate national and state influencers in an annual community calendar of events:
1) Every April, we roll out National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD), with national, state and local workshops to teach and prepare Advance Directive and POLST documents at churches, government agencies, community and civic groups (because the two things in life we cannot avoid are death and taxes)!
2) From April to November, we host Death Over Dinner/Death Over Dessert workshops in the cafeterias of inpatient, acute care, assisted living, skilled nursing, and rehab settings to teach and prepare Advance Directive and POLST documents to individuals and families. Each state and local community will utilize resources from existing programs.
3) Every November, we equip the spiritual leaders of our communities with resources to help their flock express their wishes to their healthcare providers by hosting interdenominational, multicultural Conversation Sabbaths. We emphasize the gift we give by reducing the emotional toll on caregivers.
4) From November to April, we host more Death Over Dinner/Death Over Dessert workshops in the cafeterias of inpatient, acute care, assisted living, skilled nursing, and rehab settings to teach and prepare Advance Directive and POLST documents to individuals and families.
5) We develop CE training for staff at physician offices, dialysis centers, ER’s, surgical centers, emergency and non-emergency medical transport to help increase the comfort level for opening discussions about advance directives prior to emergencies.
6) We co-conspire over and over again to coordinate our efforts and our calendars to deliver our resources to every interested individual.

Photo of Jim Rosenberg

Amy, these are great ideas for bringing together the work and insights from across programs. When the "Ideas" phase starts later this week, I hope you'll add this concept as its own post so everyone can see it and think about it more. I'm pretty sure the Ideas phase starts on Thursday (but don't quote me :-).

Photo of Sherri McElroy

I applaud the conversations about this issue. As an educator I think about what can be done to encourage these discussions with family and friends before end-of-life is at a critical stage. Many people "check out" or disappear because of fear or raw emotion. How can we prepare people for the intensity of the situation, and allow them to express the range of feelings. We could start by including children in the process of saying goodbye. Teaching them what to expect, within reason, to alleviate fears would be a meaningful life lesson. 

Photo of Amy Holliday

Since children under 12 usually aren't allowed into hospital rooms for infection control reasons, most are sheltered from experiencing the good-bye process. However, deaths at home surrounded by the chatter of children can be just the thing some elders would find calming. We should help bridge the gaps between the two scenarios and embrace the input and value of children and young adults.

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Congrats on this being today's Featured Contribution!

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

Thank you very much Jim for doing these interviews and sharing all these insights from the challenge' s sponsors.

Photo of Jim Rosenberg

My pleasure! It's been very fun and inspiring to do these interviews.