Crossing the personal quality chasm: QI enthusiast to QI leader

Bridging a love for teaching and for driving improvement


Editor’s Note: This new series highlights the professional pathways of quality improvement leaders. This month features the story of Jennifer Myers, director of quality and safety education at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

Even as a junior physician, Jennifer Myers, MD, FHM, embraced the complexities of the hospital system and the opportunity to transform patient care. She was one of the first hospitalists to participate in and lead quality improvement (QI) work at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center more than 10 years ago, where, “in that role, I got to know almost everyone in the hospital and got an up-close view of how the hospital works administratively,” she recalled.

The experience taught Dr. Myers how little she knew at that time about hospital operations, and she convinced hospital administrators that a mechanism was needed to prepare the next generation of leaders in QI and patient safety. In 2011, with the support of a career development award from the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation, Dr. Myers formulated a quality and patient safety curriculum for residents of Penn Medicine, as well as a more basic introductory program for medical students.

Dr. Jennifer Myers

Dr. Jennifer Myers

Today, Dr. Myers serves as director of quality and safety education in the Department of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, and director of Penn’s Center for Health Care Improvement in Patient Safety. These roles unite her interest in shaping the career development of faculty and fellows, and system science.

“You will always do your best in work that you are passionate about,” she said, advising others to do the same when choosing their career pathways. “Find others who are interested in – or frustrated by – the same things that you are, and work with them as you begin to shape your projects. If it’s the opioid epidemic, partner with someone in the hospital with an interest in making informed prescribing decisions. If it’s working with residents in quality, find a chief resident to help you develop an educational pathway or elective.”

Dr. Myers says that hospitalists who function at the intersection of the ICU, the ER, and inpatient care are naturally suited for leadership positions in quality and patient safety, “but, if you are a hospitalist aspiring to be a chief quality or medical officer or (someone) who wants to know the field more deeply, I recommend getting advanced training.”

Hospitalists now have multiple educational opportunities in QI to choose from, but that was not the case 7 years ago when SHM leaders invited Dr. Myers to develop and lead the Quality and Safety Educators Academy (QSEA). The 2.5-day program trains medical educators to develop curricula that incorporate quality improvement and safety principles into their local institutions. “We give them the core quality and safety knowledge but also the skills to develop and assess curricula,” Dr. Myers said. “The program also focuses on professional development and community building.”

While education is important, Dr. Myers says that a willingness to take risks is a greater predictor of success in QI. “It’s a very experiential field where you learn by doing. What you have done, and are willing to do, is more important than the training that you’ve had. Can you lead an initiative? Do you communicate well with people and teams? Can you articulate the value equation?”

She also advises hospitalists to find multiple mentors in quality work. “We talk a lot about that at QSEA,” Dr. Myers said. “It’s important to have the perspectives of people inside and outside of your institution. That’s also where the SHM network is helpful. Mentorship is a pillar of [many activities] at the annual meeting ... and [at] programs like the Academic Hospitalist Academy and QSEA.”

Claudia Stahl is a content manager for the Society of Hospital Medicine.

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