From the director
Extraordinary insight
This is too difficult an environment to feel out of the loop and without appropriate support.

Our Year of Reconciliation symposium for the Woodruff Health Sciences Center (entitled "Health Professional: Healer or Line Worker?") couldn't have been more timely. The forum consisted of six Emory faculty members representing medicine, nursing, and public health, and a guest moderator, Dr. David Blumenthal, from Harvard. I am happy to report that the forum was a success, not simply because we had thoughtful presentations and a good audience, but also open and honest dialogue about a wide array of problems and issues that confront our faculty and staff every day.

Interestingly, speakers and audience members variously identified themselves as both healers and line workers. And in particular, much of the conversation concerned the special challenges faced by our clinicians and clinical staff in the midst of probably the most difficult environment for health care providers in more than a century. The "On Point" message in this issue of Momentum focuses on the remarks of neurosurgeon Reg Haid, who, along with all of our participants, presented insightful perspective.

Along these lines, senior staff and I have also had a series of smaller but no less intense and useful meetings with Emory Clinic faculty and section representatives. One of the most important messages that has come through loud and clear is the importance of having good communications to and from every level of our organization. This is too difficult an environment to feel out of the loop and without appropriate support. That goes for those of us on the front lines of care and for those of us trying to manage resources and strategy at the unit or system-wide levels. Besides reinforcing the resources that support our clinical people and mission, we are working on improving lines of communication so that each of us can be a change agent in this difficult environment.

As I work with so many of you, I am constantly struck by your extraordinary insights. For instance, one member of the audience in our reconciliation forum said that, despite his own conflicted experience with the practice of medicine in this tough transitional period, "It saddens me to hear . . . older physicians talking about how the glory days of medicine are behind us. I think that's only true if you're not looking at it from the perspective of somebody who is either sick or going to be sick."

Michael Johns, Director,
Woodruff Health Sciences Center

I don't want to sound like a Pollyanna. And I certainly don't want to downplay the difficult challenges providers and patients everywhere now face. But there is an important truth in this statement.

There is little question that, with the health care system in such disarray, the undeterred dedication of health professionals, scientists, and staff is the glue that has kept our system functional. Each and every day, that dedication has continued to improve the prospects for people who are sick or injured. It is sometimes hard to appreciate this fact when one is on the front lines and feeling the brunt of the current hardships in doing this good work. It is nevertheless true that these efforts are winning the larger battle for the health and well-being of humanity.

Healer or line worker? One or the other or both, I'm proud to count myself among them, and I expect that you are too.

Michael M. E. Johns

In this Issue

From the Director  /  Letters


How to remake a hospital


Moving Forward  /  Noteworthy

On point: Healer or line worker?

Nation at a crossroad


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Send comments to the Editors.
Web version by Jaime Henriquez.