It has been five years since I have heard those life changing words, “You have Hepatitis C…” so the irony and gratitude to be meeting with Patty Skolnik was not lost on me. Patty is a warm and caring woman who took me under her wing shortly after my decision to reach out and become a patient safety advocate. I remember our first meeting like it was yesterday, converging on Capitol Hill to speak out about healthcare and tort reform and to tell stories of healthcare tragedies in order to raise awareness. We sat in each meeting and as Patty spoke about her son Michael, who had died in 2004 following an unnecessary surgical procedure due to complications related to medical errors, I knew I had found a kindred spirit; someone with passion and energy and the need to change a broken system.
When I met Patty, she was in the process of passing into law 3 phases of legislation known as the Michael Skolnik Medical Transparency Act. This Act requires physicians and state-licensed health professionals to have online professional profiles so consumers having access to these profiles can make informed healthcare decisions. The Act was expanded in 2010 to include 22 more license types and just this past year completed so it now includes profiling requirements for all state-licensed health professionals. And while about half of our states have similar laws, the State of Colorado is the gold standard in transparency thanks to Patty’s efforts.
In Colorado, you would be hard pressed not to have run across Patty’s work and influence if you have taken just one step into the patient safety or healthcare quality arena. Patty serves on the Board at the 9Health Fair as well as the Colorado Physicians Health Program as a Patient Safety Advisor. Her patient safety course continues to be her touchstone with families and patients empowering them to make informed decisions in regard to their healthcare needs.
Most significantly, Patty has teamed with the Colorado Hospital Association to bring the first annual Michael J. Skolnik Award for Patient Safety to help recognize individuals or groups who have gone above and beyond to advance the quality and safety of healthcare for patients across Colorado. Thanks to grant monies made available, the award will provide $3000 to help recognize and encourage leaders in patient safety.
Patty has not only taken the state of Colorado by storm with her leadership and support but her work has spread nationally to include her most recent assignment to the National Advisory Council for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) as well as her commission on the MedStar Health System’s Patient and Family Advisory Council for Quality and Safety.
I highlight Patty’s selfless acts of education and awareness because she has truly been an inspiration to myself and so many others who strive for safer healthcare environments. Jokingly, I have said, “Patty has no idea she is only one person,” as her list of accomplishments are too long to list here and seem too vast to have been tackled by a single soul.
In our meeting this past week, I was reminded why I continue to do this work. When it appears we take one step forward but two steps back due to red tape, closed minded professionals and other hurdles, there is always another door to open. With the dedication and determination, with the proper motivation and great role models such as Patty Skolnik, we are able to accomplish great things.
As I drove away with my 6-year-old daughter, she asked, “Mom, what is Patty’s job?” I answered simply, “She makes the world a safer place.” And I thought if I can have just a fraction of the influence Patty has had, I would rest easier. My daughter, always needing to have the last word, replied, “ I knew she was more than just a nice person.”
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Thank you for this wonderful post about Patty Skolnik. She has a remarkable capacity to touch peoples’ hearts, across all kinds of professions and agendas, and make them want to do the right thing. Your description of her to your daughter was spot-on.