I grew up in an academic environment. Some of my earliest memories are of my father as a graduate student, getting his Ph.D. He subsequently spent his career as a professor of Conservation and Natural Resources at Cornell University and remains a Professor Emeritus. When I was young, graduate students lived in rented rooms on the top floor of our house. One of my uncles was Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell for many years. Students, education, the latest research, writing manuscripts, publishing articles and books—all were things and concepts esteemed and cherished.
In addition, I learned something much more basic, that diversity of opinion—when respectfully and thoughtfully presented, received and reacted to—is to be valued, almost above all else. I witnessed this form of dialogue continuously at Sunday family dinners, social gatherings, even in school, where many of my peers had faculty parents. Whether applied to solving detailed problems or discussing more esoteric topics, this approach was infectiously engaging, rarely contentious and always productive. Clearly, academia does not have a monopoly on this type of interaction, but it was pervasive in my formative years.
In health care and at Fletcher Allen, we face a dizzying array of issues and opportunities, some specific and of the moment, others more overarching and of lasting import. What should we do today about an important piece of technology that is down? How do we move an organization of 7,000 people into the world of “accountable care?” In wrestling with daily decisions and prioritizing long-term strategies and initiatives, we must get all views on the table and discuss them rationally, reasonably and respectfully. This will lead to excellent decision-making and collective support for whatever needs to be accomplished. In our world, there is no place for factions to promulgate misinformation or half-truths in pursuit of short-term parochial interests. Such discourse is divisive and destructive, and we cannot afford this sort of distraction.
We are blessed to be an academic medical center and reap many benefits as a result. Fletcher Allen attracts the very best practitioners, administrators and staff, all of whom bring great skills and their individual perspectives to the organization. As we move forward, I believe we must practice a style of communication and inclusive problem-solving that is open to diverse opinions, respectfully and thoughtfully presented, received and reacted to. To me, this is a core value of Vermont’s academic medical center.
John R. Brumsted, M.D. is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Fletcher Allen Health Care and Fletcher Allen Partners.
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