Health Sciences Update
March 17, 2008
    Getting in the habit of quality  
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Fred Sanfilippo
Fred Sanfilippo, MD, PhD

"Quality is not an act; it is a habit." Aristotle wrote those words centuries ago, but they still ring true--especially here in the Woodruff Health Sciences Center. On February 29, I took advantage of a special opportunity to participate in the Emory Healthcare Quality Conference (see article below), part of a comprehensive, ongoing quality initiative that is working to ensure outstanding patient safety, outcomes, and service.

For two days preceding the conference, I participated in the Quality Academy, a series of courses aimed at teaching what one needs to know to be able to talk the talk and walk the walk in health care quality improvement. This outstanding course, Leadership for Healthcare Improvement, is intended to help leaders throughout the health sciences learn the concepts and tools needed to measure, assess, and improve quality of care.

Both the Quality Academy and the Quality Conference were enlightening and inspirational events. It was clear from the attendance that quality is an issue that faculty and staff at all levels of our institution take seriously, with the active support of the Woodruff Health Sciences Center and Emory Healthcare Boards of Directors. I saw many of our senior leaders taking the opportunity to learn more about how they could personally contribute to enhanced quality, while some 500 faculty and staff among four sites did the same.

What we learned was an undeniable truth: Health care is a high-stress, multi-tasking environment that is rife with opportunities for error. And of course, it’s only human to make mistakes. That’s why we need to be vigilant in ensuring that we have processes and systems in place that help eliminate the potential for human error and that we deal fairly and justly with colleagues who make mistakes, learning from each one and viewing them as opportunities for improvement.

Taking its cues from industry, the quality initiative works to build processes that make it virtually impossible to not do the right things. Efforts include providing superior customer service, eliminating waste, and continually seeking ways to improve. Process-improvement techniques like these have helped the airlines improve their performance in terms of safety (and hopefully someday in baggage handling), and they can help us too.

Of course, the Quality Conference addressed the issues of quality and safety specifically in the health care setting, but the principles it taught are really applicable to all of us. From support services to patient care to research to teaching, we can all improve our quality and performance. I know I’m committed to doing all I can to apply the principles of quality to my daily work, and I hope I can count on you to do the same.

I welcome your feedback on our quality initiative and your ideas about how we can ensure outstanding quality for our patients, students, faculty, staff, and supporters. Please share your thoughts at

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Children's invests $430 million in research

Children's Healthcare of Atlanta announced last month that it was designating $430 million from its endowment for pediatric research. It plans to use the funds to seed partnerships with Georgia research and academic institutions, including Emory and Georgia Tech. The investment will likely change the landscape in pediatric research, especially in areas such as cardiovascular disease, oncology, and neuroscience. It is expected to help attract top medical talent and grants as well as prime the pump for start-up companies to help develop new treatments and vaccines. By providing resources and leveraging expertise, Children's investment increases the odds of payoff from research to benefit children. For more information, see press release and article in Atlanta Business Chronicle.

This initiative will increase collaborative opportunities between Emory and Children's and strengthen the partnership that already exists between the two. Emory and Children's entered into an agreement in September 2006 to make a joint venture of the Emory-Children's Center (ECC), the largest pediatric multispecialty group practice in Georgia. Since then, Emory and Children's have worked together to bring clinical components of various pediatric specialties into the ECC fold, in terms of administration and finance. For more background on the relationship between Emory and Children's, see magazine article.

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Dee Cantrell
Dee Cantrell


Taking it digital

This is part of an ongoing series of profiles of those who lead major areas throughout the Woodruff Health Sciences Center.

When Dedra (Dee) Cantrell first came to Emory 12 years ago, she was surprised at how much paper was involved in everything from business operations to clinical care. But as Emory Healthcare moved toward the “holy grail of a digital environment” under her leadership as chief information officer since 2003, the significance of this sea change has been less about going paperless and more about improving operations and enhancing the quality and safety of patient care.

Cantrell now heads a team of 165 business and application analysts, programmers, web developers, and others who collect, store, process, protect, transmit, and retrieve vast amounts of information.

Although information technology (IT) encompasses everything informational, from e-mail to general ledger accounting, Cantrell believes the most dramatic change has come from implementation of the Emory electronic medical record system (EeMR) launched in 2002.

Thanks to EeMR, clinicians now have real-time access to clinical data on Emory patients no matter where they are located in the Emory system. Even computer-wary clinicians have been delighted by how EeMR eliminates the problem of lost or misplaced patient folders, reduces the chance of miscommunication, warns of possible drug interactions, and lifts some of the onerous burden of paperwork.

Another highly visible IT success of which Cantrell is proud is the move to a digital environment in the emergency department (ED). ED physicians, nurses, and other team members worked with IT and with Cerner Corporation to install an ED EeMR to implement patient triage and tracking and discharge instructions. The changes have standardized patient care processes, shortened turnaround for test results and medication orders, reduced the chance of errors, and increased staff satisfaction. In April, an article by Cantrell on Emory’s “digital journey in an emergency department” will be the cover story in the magazine Advance for Health Information Executives.

Other parts of Cantrell’s job include planning how IT can be built into growth, when, for example, new physician practices or inpatient facilities come into the system. She also assures that Emory Healthcare stays on track in case of network disruption, using IT backup and redundancy and depending on detailed plans to "downtime" some procedures to keep others running.

Always a big science fiction fan, Cantrell loves helping the human brain handle endless waves of changing information. What does she do when she is not working to ensure that IT processes are running optimally? She plays with her rottweiler Casanova and knits, enjoying a project that, unlike the ever-changing IT world at Emory, has a beginning and an end.

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Fadlo Khuri
Fadlo Khuri


Medical school establishes hem/onc as department

The medical school has established Hematology and Medical Oncology, formerly a division in the Department of Medicine, as a department in its own right. Naming hem/onc as a department is important to development of Emory Winship Cancer Institute as an NCI-designated cancer center, says Brian Leyland-Jones, Winship's director. Winship submits a grant application in May to the NCI for such designation, which will place it among the country's elite cancer facilities in terms of research, treatment, and outreach.

Aerodigestive cancer specialist Fadlo Khuri has been named chair of the new department. Khuri, who also holds the Roberto C. Goizueta Chair for Cancer Research, served as deputy director of clinical and translational research before this new appointment. Since joining Winship in 2002, he has helped lead a substantial increase in federal cancer funding at Emory and has played an integral role in recruiting leading research and clinical faculty. For more information, see press release.

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beta amyloid
Beta-amyloid protein

Emory participates in Alzheimer's vaccine test

Emory is participating in trials of an Alzheimer's vaccine developed by Merck that targets beta-amyloid, a naturally occurring protein that clumps together and forms plaques in the brains of people with the disease. Neurology chair Allan Levey is principal investigator. Men and women 55 and older with mild to moderate Alzheimer's are eligible to participate. Several other centers in this country and in Sweden also are taking part. Patients enrolled in the study will receive three injections of the vaccine or placebo over 6 months. For more background about the vaccine, see press release and Atlanta-Journal Constitution article.

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Quality conference drives home importance of patient safety

Those who attended Emory Healthcare’s recent quality conference found their attention riveted by a personal story shared by invited speaker Victoria Nahum. Nahum was one of three in her family to experience a hospital-borne bacterial infection, from three different hospitals in three different cities in the span of just one year. Her son Josh died as a result of his infection.

Nahum is co-founder of the Safe Care Campaign, an organization that promotes safety in the health care environment. Her recollection of the events that changed her life--leading to her national mission of improving health care quality--capped a day in which Emory also reinforced its commitment to quality and safety in patient care.

More than 500 people from Emory Healthcare leadership and management attended the conference on February 29, which was based at the Ritz-Carlton Atlanta and broadcast to sites at Emory University Hospital, Emory Crawford Long Hospital, and Wesley Woods Hospital. In addition to Nahum, speakers included James Bagian, a physician, former NASA astronaut, and nationally known safety expert, and David Marx, president of the risk management firm Outcome Engineering, who discussed "fair and just culture.& quot;

Poster presentations reflecting the breadth and depth of quality-improvement projects initiated across Emory Healthcare were featured at all four of the conference sites, with common themes of clinical outcomes, service, and patient safety. The posters illustrated disciplines such as developing an "aim" statement, designing and conducting tests of change, and identifying, collecting, and assessing metrics to verify the results of tests of change. These posters will soon be on temporary display in the WHSCAB plaza and will travel to other venues as well--stay tuned for details to come.

For more information about other patient safety and quality initiatives at Emory, see magazine article.

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Linda Cendales
Linda Cendales


Limb transplant pioneer establishes program at Emory

Hand and transplant surgeon Linda Cendales is establishing a training and research program in the medical school for composite tissue allotransplantation--transplantation of limbs and other intact body parts. Cendales helped organize the team that performed the first hand transplant in the United States in 1999 in Louisville. She directs Emory's microsurgery and composite tissue transplant lab and is affiliated with the Atlanta VA Medical Center. For more information, see press release.

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Kate Neuhausen
Kate Neuhausen

HealthSTAT lives up to its name

The health sciences center and the schools of medicine, public health, and nursing owe a debt of gratitude to some 200 student leaders in HealthSTAT, who have worked tirelessly in recent months to advocate on behalf of Grady Hospital. They have mailed postcards, handed out buttons, lobbied legislators, designed fact sheets, led Grady tours, and attended numerous county commission meetings to make their presence known and lend their voices to the cause of saving Grady as a safety net for the poor. They also lobbied lawmakers to fund a statewide trauma network and increase Medicaid reimbursement rates as well as funding for residency training, among other causes.

HealthSTAT, which stands for health students taking action together, is a statewide coalition of health sciences students founded by Emory medical students in 2001. It brings together students from all health professional schools and programs at Emory as well as Morehouse and other Georgia schools, focusing on issues such as health disparities/access to care, childhood obesity, and HIV/AIDS prevention and policy. The organization's current president is Anjli Aurora, a BSN nursing alumna (06) and current MSN student.

Two HealthSTAT members, medical student Kate Neuhausen and resident Andy Kobylivker, received awards this month from the Georgia chapter of the American College of Physicians for their work on HealthSTAT's Grady Is Vital Campaign.

For more on HealthSTAT, visit their web site or read recent newspaper or magazine articles.

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Appointments, awards, publications, events

(For a complete list of awards, see Honors and Awards online.)


Jeff Koplan
Jeff Koplan


- Koplan named VP for global health for Emory

Jeffrey Koplan has been appointed vice president for global health for Emory, a title reflecting the scope of his work across the university. He will continue to serve as director of Emory's Global Health Institute, a position he has held since the GHI was established in 2006. For more information about this appointment, see press release. For more information about the GHI, see web site.

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Deena Gilland
Deena Gilland


- Gilland appointed director of oncology nursing in Winship

Deena Gilland, an alumna of the nursing school's master's program in leadership and health care administration (07), has been appointed director of nursing for Emory Winship Cancer Institute. Prior to this role, she directed the oncology services department at Emory University Hospital. Gilland is a faculty member in Emory's oncology residency program. She also is a member of the American Nurses Association and the Georgia Organization of Nurse Executives. For more information, see press release.

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Mary Delong
Mary Delong


- Emory ranked high as best place to work for post-docs

Emory was ranked as the second best academic institution nationally and as the 17th best institution overall in The Scientist magazine's "Best Places to Work for Postdocs" 2008 survey. Emory was one of only two academic institutions ranked in the top 20. Mary Delong directs postdoctoral education in the medical school, which has 454 of the more than 500 postdocs in health sciences. For more information, see press release.

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Claudia Adkison
Claudia Adkison


- Report recommends policies on financial conflict of interest

A report issued jointly last month from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) and Association of American Universities calls for medical schools and research universities to issue policies on financial conflict of interest (COI) within the next two years and to refine standards for addressing individual financial COI. A pdf of "Protecting Patients, Preserving Integrity, Advancing Health: Accelerating the Implementation of COI Policies in Human Subjects Research" can be downloaded from this web site. Medical school executive associate dean Claudia Adkison was a major author and editor of this report. She also helped found and was the first national chair of the AAMC forum on COI and is currently serving a second term.

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- Brochure updates facts and figures

Did you know that the Woodruff Health Sciences Center makes Emory the largest private employer in metro Atlanta and that its estimated annual economic impact is $4.8 billion? These and other facts and figures can be found in the 16-page 2008 health sciences At-a-Glance brochure, now available in print and online. In addition to information about the center and each of its components, the booklet includes maps of the health sciences campus and Emory Healthcare locations. To obtain print copies, contact Carol Pinto at

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- In case you missed it. . .

Emory's campus newspaper, Emory Report, published an interview with EVPHA Fred Sanfilippo about his first 100 days in office and a profile of genetics counselor Catherine Tesla.

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John Fox
John Fox


- Emory Healthcare CEO employee forums

Emory Healthcare CEO John Fox is in the process of conducting 15 CEO forums for employees in March and April to answer questions and share information about what's on the horizon this year for Emory Healthcare. Following are dates/locations for remaining forums:
- March 18, 12 noon, Center for Rehabilitation Medicine, room 101
- March 18, 4:30 p.m., 1525 building, Alperin auditorium
- March 25, 11:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Emory University Hospital, auditorium
- April 3, 7:30 a.m., Emory Crawford Long Hospital, Glenn auditorium
- April 4, 1:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m., Decatur Plaza, room 279
- April 15, 6 p.m., Emory University Hospital, auditorium

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- 2008 Annual International Animal Care and Use Committee Conference
March 27-28, Marriott Marquis, Atlanta, on ethics and regulatory issues. For more information or to register, see web site.

- Office of Technology Transfer Celebration of Technology and Innovation
April 1, 4 p.m., Silver Bell Pavilion, Emory Conference Center. For more information, see flyer. To RSVP, call 404-727-1785.

- Emory Center for Systems Imaging Scientific Program
The new Emory Center for Systems Imaging (CSI) will celebrate its opening with a reception and scientific program on April 2, 5:00-7:00 p.m., in the School of Medicine building, room 130. Carolyn Meltzer, CSI strategic director and chair of radiology, will provide an overview of the center, followed by presentations by Sanjiv Gambhir (Stanford) on molecular imaging and Mark Henkelman (University of Toronto) on imaging and genomics. For more information, contact Laura Padgett at

- CFAR Science Symposium
April 8, 9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m., Cox Hall Ballroom. Antiretroviral therapy: Prolonging survival, decreasing transmission, aiming for virus eradication. Free, includes lunch for those who are preregistered. For more information, contact Shelle Bryant at

- 6th Annual Action Cycling 200
May 17-18. Bike ride to benefit the Emory Vaccine Center for AIDS vaccines. For more information or to register, see web site.

- 6th International GlycoT 2008 meeting
Atlanta, May 17-20, co-hosted by Emory and University of Georgia. For more information or to register, see web site. For a definition of glycomics and to learn more about glycomics research at Emory, see magazine article.

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