Critical Coalition

Larry Wellikson, MD, FACP

M­arch is an important month for SHM. It is DVT Awareness Month, and once again SHM is leading a coalition of almost 40 organizations to raise the understanding of this disease. DVT causes complications that kill more people every year than AIDS and breast cancer combined. This coalition includes the American College of Physicians, the American Public Health Association, the American College of Chest Physicians, the American Society of Health System Pharmacists, the American Association of Critical Care Nurses, and many more.

The goals of the coalition are to use our knowledge and influence to inform not only the public at large, but health professionals as well. And if our success in 2005 is any measure, the DVT Awareness campaign has really had an impact.

Last year more than 400 million people saw on TV or read our message in magazines and newspapers. Utilizing the compelling story of our national spokesperson, Melanie Bloom, a mother of three girls who lost her young, athletic NBC war-correspondent husband, David, to a fatal pulmonary embolism (PE), our message was seen on “Larry King Live” on CNN, on the “Jane Pauley Show,” on “Access Hollywood,” and in Ladies Home Journal.

Often Melanie was accompanied by hospitalists such as Frank Michota, MD, the head of the Hospital Medicine Division at Cleveland Clinic. Dr. Michota answered the clinical questions in the interviews. Who can forget when Larry King turned to Dr. Michota and asked, “Are you a cardiologist?”

SHM is a young, enthusiastic organization that lacks the cynicism of entrenchment. We actually believe we can make quality matter—even without pay for performance and before regulated performance standards. We see the DVT Awareness Coalition as a template for SHM’s call to action.

“No, Larry, I am a hospitalist,” said Dr. Michota.

And when Larry King asked “What is a hospitalist?” Dr. Michota spread the gospel according to hospital medicine to a nationwide audience.

Later in the year a billboard on Rockefeller Center in New York City proclaimed the DVT Awareness message along with the SHM logo. If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.

But this campaign isn’t just about TV appearances and magazine articles. This is about using awareness to save lives. And save lives we did. More than a thousand letters and e-mails were sent to the coalition in 2005 from patients and family members with personal stories of how exposure to our campaign led them to go to their doctors or show up in an ED. They were treated early for DVT—before they developed a potentially fatal PE. They credit the DVT Awareness Campaign with saving their lives.

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