President's Message

Each month, AACH President Jenni Levy, MD, FAACH addresses AACH members through her president's message, sharing updates, goals, and information to keep members engaged and involved in the Academy.     

March 2017

The calendar says it’s spring. The piles of snow outside my window and the chill on my fingers as I type seem to argue otherwise. I am ready for some sunshine and balmy breezes; I trust they will eventually appear. In the same way, I trust that people who come into contact with AACH work will benefit from it, even if I can’t see it in the moment. It’s like throwing a pebble into the pond; you never know where the ripples will reach shore.

Early in my career, I was one of the presenters at an SGIM Pre-course on addiction in primary care. We offered the participants skills to ask about drug and alcohol use in a non-threatening way, and to use motivational interviewing approaches for brief interventions. One of the participants was openly skeptical. She was quite sure that she knew which of her patients were using drugs, and asking everyone would just be a waste of time - and insulting to those who weren’t using.

When I showed up for the following year’s SGIM meeting, a woman I didn’t recognize pulled me aside. She said “I was in the pre-course last year. I was convinced you were wrong, and I decided to prove it by asking all my patients for a week and documenting my results. It turned out that four of my long-time patients were using cocaine, and I never knew it. I wanted to thank you - and apologize.” She became a strong advocate for screening and brief interventions in her institution. 

That experience gave me the patience to roll with skepticism and pushback when I teach. Most of the participants in our courses are experienced professionals. We are asking them to change what they do. It’s unsettling at best. No one wants to think they are doing a bad job of talking to patients. Conversely, most people believe that those who are “good communicators” are just born that way. These days, when participants in a course raise their eyebrow or their voice at what I’m saying, I validate the concern and keep going, trusting that if they actually use the skills, they’ll get it.

Last fall, I had the pleasure of teaching our one-day course on Relationship-Centered Care at a small hospital. This is not an academic center; they are a community hospital in a small town in what is still largely a rural area. They came to us through our collaboration with Press-Ganey. For a small institution, they made a sizable investment in and commitment to improving the patient experience by helping their providers develop better communication skills. 

Adults aren’t any more enthusiastic than kids about compulsory training. Most of the participants were polite and did what they were asked to do. A few hung back and didn’t say much. A few asked pointed questions about how they could possibly do “all this stuff” as a hospitalist or ED provider. And one participant directly told me that he thought this was completely worthless. I validated the concern and kept going.

When I went back to do some coaching, I was interested to see that almost every provider - even the ones who had sat back or questioned the utility of the course - was using at least one part of our approach. Most were using PEARLS, and some were using agenda-setting, as they discovered that even on hospital day #4, patients may have agendas we don’t expect. In the ED, I encouraged one physician to go back in a room and ask the patient what her concerns were. The answer was so unexpected that it changed his testing plan. 

Last week, the patient experience coordinator emailed me to tell me that the ED department had started their own patient experience improvement project with the goal of having every provider ask every patient about their ideas, concerns and expectations. 

That wasn’t my doing. I was the conduit for the research started by Bob Smith and continued by Auguste Fortin, Francesca Dwamena, and a host of others. It’s a pebble in a pond. When we work together, we can make change.


Mission + Vision

Mission Statement:

AACH is the professional home for all those who are committed to improving communication and relationships in healthcare.  

AACH accomplishes this through:

  • Welcoming researchers, educators, clinicians, patients, patient advocates, and all members of the healthcare team.
  • Providing opportunities for collaboration, support and personal and professional development.
  • Identifying strengths, resources and needs of patients, their family members and healthcare professionals, both as unique individuals and in relationship to one another. 
  • Developing skills that integrate biological, psychological and social domains.
  • Applying existing scholarship from multiple disciplines and developing new knowledge through research.
  • Promoting collaborative relationships between clinicians and patients, teachers and learners, and all members of the health care team.
  • Incorporating core values of respect, empathy and genuineness in human relationships and the importance of self-awareness in all activities. 

Vision Statement:

A health care system where all patients, healthcare professionals, trainees and researchers feel valued, are treated equitably with respect, compassion, understanding, and are actively engaged in healthcare processes and decisions.

Basic Beliefs We Share as an Organization

  1. AACH believes that the healing human relationship among healthcare professionals, patients and their families is a critical aspect of healthcare. We believe that highly performing interpersonal and inter-professional delivery systems are necessary to achieve the greatest benefit from our biotechnical services.
  2. AACH believes in the highest quality, most fully accessible and cost-effective health care for all.
  3. AACH believes that relationship skills, communication skills, and teaching skills are learnable and teachable.
  4. AACH believes that improved relationships and communication enhance team and patient satisfaction, reduce errors and grievances, improve efficacy, efficiency and safety, and enhance health outcomes, as documented in the peer-reviewed literature.
  5. AACH believes that organizational investment in the continuous quality improvement of relationships and communication rewards the organization in many dimensions.
  6. AACH believes in learner-centered methods of teaching and coaching, facilitating discovery of learning needs and preferred learning styles.
  7. AACH leaders and teachers live the relationship-centered human values we teach, with each other in the organization and in our interactions with patients, family members, colleagues on the health care team, clients, and interested others; we strive to remain curious about and respectful of all forms of diversity that our individual experiences bring to our relationships.
  8. AACH is committed to evidence-based practice in healthcare and teaching, grounded in highest quality research that continually informs our work.
  9. AACH is committed to promoting diversity in its membership and leadership, including but not limited to diversity in profession, seniority, interests, gender, race/ethnicity, and sexual orientation. It believes that such diversity is critical to attaining the best research, scholarship, teaching, health care and other strategic goals of the Academy. Accordingly, AACH believes it essential to assertively recruit under-represented minorities into our organization.
  10. AACH is committed to assisting in the training of under-represented minority healthcare professionals and to reducing healthcare disparities.
  11. AACH is committed to human relationships grounded in integrity, congruence, transparency, empathy and unconditional positive regard. 
  12. As a non-profit human service organization, AACH adheres to a clear mission and assures that resources are used on mission-centered activities.

[Our basic beliefs were developed by participants at the 2009 Winter Course and edited by the Executive Committee. The mission, vision, and beliefs were updated by the Board in February 2014 and October 2015.]

2017 President Message Archives

Watch your inbox for the President’s message each month. If you miss an email, you can visit this page for archives of past messages.

January 2017
February 2017
March 2017

2016 President Message Archives

Watch your inbox for the President’s message each month. If you miss an email, you can visit this page for archives of past messages.

2015 President Message Archives

Watch your inbox for the President’s message each month. If you miss an email, you can visit this page for archives of past messages.

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