Being the 2nd guy dancing and how to have 3Rs: at the right time, at the right place, with the right people, and doing the right thing

…and the 4th R: doing the right thing together.

My patient safety walk in the summer of 2020 to support #uniteforsafecare

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~Maya Angelou

Have you ever felt you were at the right place at the right time with the right people (3 R’s)? You are lucky if you have had that experience. I often thought this was coincidental, and this could be. You have heard celebrity stories that he/she was cast by meeting someone important at random places.

However, I have come to realize many can be intentional. And having and feeling 3R is an unforgettable experience. I was lucky enough to have felt this way when I attended Telluride Summer Experience in 2019, with healthcare students from all over the United States, learning about patient safety. Like the quote above, I felt that my existence in the experience was meaningful as some have told me that they would never forget about me at the conference (more on this at another time…). Dr. David Mayer (Dave), a national leader in patient safety and CEO of the Patient Safety Movement Foundation (PSMF), has been the leader of this beautiful experience for years.

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Dave has been my informal mentor since then. I have been naturally following what he has been doing, and he is a natural leader of students. Having the same passion for patient safety, I have supported the cause as an ambassador of the PSMF ever since I attended the planning meeting of PSMF in the following year on the first WHO designated World Patient Safety Day on 9/17/19.

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There was a plan for a march that patients wanted to organize and participate in. Dave needed help in organizing the march, which I was more than happy to support. Phone calls for planning started, and I started spreading the plan where I lived, in the Chicago area. In March of 2020, the foundation was planning a meeting to discuss these plans in person at the annual conference. I was so excited to go, wanting to have that feeling again, having the 3 Rs.

Then, Covid-19 hit. The conference was canceled, and our plan for the walk went berserk. It was so disappointing, to say the least. I wanted patients to be able to “walk the walk” together to show they mattered, and they were visible, that they were “we.” I wanted it to happen in the Chicago area specifically, where it is home and headquarters to many healthcare organizations like Joint Commissions, American Medical Associations, American Society of Anesthesiologists, and many others. I wanted them to “feel” what patients wanted and demanded. I wanted to create the 3 Rs to instill the urgency of change in healthcare.

Despite the circumstances, Dave decided to start walking, inspired by the movie Forrest Gump when he watched the movie one night, just like Forrest started running. Being a baseball fan, he started walking from stadium to stadium all over the country. An avid Cubs fan, he wanted to hit Wrigleyville and watch the game of Cubs vs. Brewers of Milwaukee as a treat with a cold beer in his hand.

Around the same time, while I was driving from downtown Chicago’s Lakeshore Drive to my work in Waukegan, I was struck by the stark difference of the neighborhoods in affluence around one lake and how many hospitals there were around Michigan Lake.

Then I remembered what my friend Stephen Burrows, whom I met at Telluride Experience, said in his movie screening of Bleedout — an HBO documentary on the medical malpractice of Judie Burrows, Steve’s mother — something along the line that “we all deserve to be safe, regardless of our pocket-size.” He was so right. I decided to “walk the walk” to advocate for patient safety with the theme of ”One Lake, One Safe Care.” The timing was also right to raise awareness for our virtual event on 9/17/20, #uniteforsafecare.

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When Dave shared his plan for the path, I was so surprised they were very similar when he would get to Illinois from Wisconsin! Was this coincidence? As I am a believer in everything happens for a reason, I did not think so. Although we started with different thoughts, the paths were surprisingly aligned. While Dave was walking all over the country, I started my own walk. Because of Covid-19, I decided to walk alone for safety reasons and the ease of scheduling at my own terms, but open the virtual team through Charity Miles.

However, at the same time, I was going through the most challenging time of my life personally. I was on the verge of breaking down entirely myself. More the reason I still had to walk the walk, I thought. In hindsight, it kept me together and alive, giving me the negative space to reflect on my values in life. Patient safety is inseparable from me, I have concluded. And no one can take it away from me.

I walked along the lake, making stops at 17 different hospitals and schools, spanning more than 50 miles on foot, throughout June-September. Whenever I had a day off, I would move forward with the plan. Walking according to the plan was not as easy as you would think. I could not find bathrooms to stop by on one day. On another day, I was stopped by a police officer because Google Map led me to walk on the highway as there was no other way to get out of the hospital on foot! I had to figure out a way out in the most creative way by asking questions to a person (the only person I could find, by the way.) at the neighboring place. (God bless him!) Through rain and shine, I kept walking.

When Dave and his wife Cathy came to town, we walked together along with a few other safety leaders from Medstar and PSMF, social distancing and being careful with safety. Steve and his wife, Margo, also came to walk one day. Bradley Schwartz, a medical error survivor, and a patient advocate, also joined our walk on one day.

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I had the 3 Rs once again with many intentions and efforts. Thanks to friends and families, we were able to donate $1000+ to the foundation from fundraising. My team of 18 walked 1000 miles by the time of the event. Dave thanked me for supporting the foundation and his efforts, and I replied that I would gladly be the 2nd guy dancing for him anytime. The viral video from a TED talk by Derek Sivers shared at the Telluride conference, showing how a change occurs and spreads through leadership. Amazing movement occurs after the 2nd guy dancing, as many of you may have seen in this video.

Having 3R, being at the right place at the right time with the right people, can be created by you with intentions and hard work, and by being the 2nd guy, if not first, dancing. Determination to keep moving forward is more than necessary, however, as something will always come up and will try to stop you, even as the 2nd guy! I cannot imagine what has come up to Dave as the 1st guy. I would also add the 4th R to the 3R, doing the right thing together.

Together, we walk forward to #uniteforsafecare, and every step matters! You can still join us virtually to walk together! Please join our team March For Patient Safety on Charity Miles app!

Click here to join now.

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Written by

Dreamer of empathetic and humble healthcare. Pharmacist who cannot stand drugs. Patient advocate for you. Want to talk? jun.soojin@gmail.com

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