Medical Student Wins Acceptance to National Patient Safety Conference

Rupa Prasad, a third-year student with a strong interest in the relationship between process improvement and patient safety, has been accepted to the “Academy for Emerging Leaders in Patient Safety: The Telluride Experience,” a national conference being held June 8-11 in Telluride, Colo.

The annual event brings together students and professionals from across the country in an interactive format to address ethical, professional, legal and economic dilemmas regarding transparency and the growing need for effective communication skills when medical errors and adverse events occur.

Prasad was selected from a pool of more than 250 applicants, according to her acceptance letter, because of her “leadership accomplishments and strong interest and passion in patient safety and quality improvement.” The all-expenses-paid scholarship was funded by a contribution from The Doctors Company Foundation.

“I was interested in quality improvement before I came to medical school,” said Prasad. “When I was studying for my M.P.H. degree at Columbia, I realized that I wanted to do something in medicine that had the potential to affect populations in addition to individual patients. I became very inspired by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s 100,000 Lives Campaign, which introduces proven best practices to participating hospitals to extend or save lives. In addition, I learned that IHI had a student component through its Open School program, which offers free online courses. After I arrived at the Miller School, I met students who were also interested in quality and process improvement, and we started an IHI chapter here on campus.”

The students connected with Rick Melnyck, Assistant Vice President for Medical Affairs, and Yvonne Diaz, M.D., assistant professor of internal medicine and Assistant Dean for Graduate Medical Education, who became faculty advisors for the student IHI chapter. Working together, the advisors and students also created a new elective course in quality improvement that uses IHI Open School modules for class discussion themes.

“Our health care system is ever changing,” said Diaz. “More and more, the focus is on quality and safety outcomes. Our students need to prepare for this aspect of their careers, as we will be looking to them to become the leaders in medicine and continue to improve patient care. Rick and I are inspired by the enthusiasm and drive shown by Rupa and the other five third-year students taking the elective who are learning and working with us.”

Melnyck said he believes Prasad will bring back valuable knowledge from the Telluride conference.

“At a time when patient safety is at the forefront of medical advancement, we are proud that Rupa will be representing the Miller School of Medicine at this prestigious meeting,” he said. “We anticipate that she will utilize this experience to continue to be a catalyst for change when she returns.”

That is exactly what Prasad, who plans to enter anesthesiology, hopes to do.

“I was very excited to be accepted,” she said. “It will be wonderful to have the opportunity to meet other students with the same interests, as well as experts in the field. I have to complete a project in my fourth year, which I anticipate will involve a combination of anesthesiology, quality improvement and patient safety. I know what I learn at Telluride will be of use to me. I also hope it will help me interest other students in the field.”

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