It’s usually a throwaway question, the answer being “Not much? How about with you?” But after spending the last few days at the annual Pediatric Academic Societies meeting, I’d answer “A ton!”. Besides renewing a bit of a connection with my clinical and academic roots, I heard a lot that reinforced our value of innovation, including over 100 presentations by Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin and Medical College of Wisconsin faculty, trainees, and staff. Over the 25 years I have been involved with this meeting, it has continued to evolve for the better. A great deal of what is presented now falls under the rubric of quality improvement, demonstrating that we can always find ways to provide care that leads to better outcomes, lower cost, and better experience, and that we are always getting better at getting better. I left with a long list of new ideas we can consider at Children’s. And some of my colleagues learned from what we are doing and shared at the meeting.
I also realized that good ideas don’t matter if they aren’t put into action, and that takes advocacy. Being with thousands of pediatric providers is a sure fire way to renew one’s sense of purpose. A particularly inspirational moment was a talk by Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, the pediatrician who helped uncover the tragedy of lead in the water in Flint, Michigan. Spurred by the needs of her patients and families, she did the research to demonstrate the reality that Flint’s children were being poisoned, and that it was due to lead in the water. Then she advocated for action to fix it. Neither was easy. Fighting attacks from the authorities who were conspiring to hide the facts, Dr. Hanna-Attisha relentlessly pursued two things – truth, and justice. All in the interest of improving the health of children.
One thing I took from it is that we are all advocates for children. Advocacy is simply a call for action. Those actions can range from public policies to address the social determinants of health, to better integration of children into school after a heart transplant, to a reduction in unnecessary X-rays in infants with bronchiolitis, to greater family and nursing involvement in patient rounds – all ideas presented by the CHW team, by the way. Making a difference means turning those innovations into practice and policy, at all levels. Advocacy is where the rubber of innovation hits the road to having the healthiest kids.