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Monday, April 9, 2012

The Trees of Maine

I have always wished to go to Maine.  My husband Fred and I often said if we were to have a honeymoon or a family trip that did not involve visiting Oklahoma, we would visit Maine.  This past week I was so honored to speak in Maine.  I flew to Boston and then took Cape Air to Augusta.  I have never been in such a small plane in my life.  There were only six seats and plenty of turbulence.

I was so thankful that Fred only travels with me in spirit.  He would not have liked that plane.  But I enjoyed every bump and the view was grand.

When I arrived in Augusta, I was greeted by Lisa Letourneau, MD and Kelly Slate Miller from Maine Quality Counts they introduced me to patient rights advocate David White.  We would be doing an interview with Garret Martin who hosts the Maine Center for Economic Policy cable program: State of the State.  The taping went well and the podcast is entitled “Engaging Patients to Improve Health and Health Care Quality” airdate 4-3-12.

Soon after I was asked if I would like to sit in on a planning meeting between Chuck Aston from MS&L and the quality folks from Maine.  It was quite a lively discussion.  Many ideas were aired and I was very impressed by the Maine team’s decision to include me.  There are many organizations that say that would like to include patients in design, but few do that in practice.  I applaud Maine Quality Counts for actually inviting me to take part.

Later that evening I attended a small reception.  I met Dee deHaas and she was as delightful in person as she is online.  I also met Jessie Gruman in person.  That was wonderful, as we have communicated quite a bit on Twitter.  Lisa Letourneau asked
Jesse and I to share a few words with the group, we were delighted to do so.  Then Chuck began a speech about patient understanding of healthcare terms such a “medical home” or “patient-centered care.”  His speech was chocked full of patients’ unintentionally humorous interpretations of the words we use constantly when discussing health policy.  He is great speaker full of witty comments with strongly supported data.  After Chuck finished, I asked him if he would present that slide deck before a room full of patients.  He said it was not intended for them.  The data in that deck had been created from dialoging with focus groups at the request of providers.

The next day I began painting at Maine Quality Counts Partnering with Patients:  Finding the Bright Spots to Transform Care. The painting is entitled “The Trees of Maine.”

"The Trees of Maine"
There is a tree in the center of this painting because many times during the conference speakers remarked that there would be few paper handouts at this event as they were trying to save the trees of Maine.  I love that they are embracing reducing the use of paper in their conference and by encouraging the use of Electronic Health Records.  They are saving trees by doing this, but they are also saving lives.
Trees and patients

So in the center of this tree is the figure of a woman and above her head is a blue button symbol.  Data access will save her.

This painting also focuses on bright spots just as the conference does.  I love that Lisa and her team named the meeting thus.  When you are looking for bright spots, you have accepted that you are currently in darkness. That is a major leap for many people working in quality and safety.  It is really easy to cheerlead and point out the bright spots of care; it is quite another thing to fight every day within the darkened trench and work to spread the light.

Jessie Gruman

The opening keynote was Jessie Gruman, Phd. She spoke about her massive experience in the world of medicine as an advocate and as a four-time cancer survivor.  She looked beautiful in her blue sweater and her feisty red hair, and she looked our so very thin.  She is still recovering from her last altercation with illness, but she is on the road spreading the word.  She is inviting medical providers to involve us as the experts we are.  Within this painting Jessie stands with her flashlight pointed at herself.  A bright spot in care is the patient and caregiver.

Bright Spots

To the right of Jessie a man stands above and behind an embankment, his face is concerned.  He is holding out a candle, whilst he stands behind a barrier of care.  Reaching toward him is a young child upon a thin branch.  Here are the minorities in Maine: people of color and children.  Maine has a very large population of people over the age of 65.  Much focus of quality initiatives is placed upon this growing demographic.  This demographic traditionally uses a great deal of medical services, but it is important that as quality initiatives are designed we do not forget these other lights. 
Lighting the path

Below this pair, a man in a wheelchair is upon the path of care.  He looks into the distance with a candle in hand. I wonder how he will propel his wheelchair whilst holding a candle.  He represents the fluttering worry I heard from many attendees.  How can so many be cared for when funding is being cut?
Showing the way

To the far left of the painting, a mother and son are walking on the path of care.  The mother carries a lantern and the son a flashlight.  This little boy and Jessie have the strongest lights within the painting.  These bright spots inform the viewer look at us and allow us to show you the way.

I painted most of the day and many wonderful people came over to my easel.  Kathy Day is a nurse and patient advocate.  She is one of my friends on facebook and I was so glad to see her there. 

Kathy and the Painting

Sue Woods, MD came to the event all the way from the west coast.  She wore her Walking Gallery jacket and gladly reconnected with her old friends in Maine.

Sue Woods

I also presented a keynote speech: “A Story Before Dying.”  I spoke of Fred, Stephen King and the Dark Tower.  I told the folks of Maine that they could become a beacon of light, a bright spot for the rest of the nation. 

I am so glad that Maine decided that quality counts and to be a bright spot in care. 

Before I went to Maine, I painted this for them.  It is called Quality Counts.


  In this painting a patient stands on tiptoe with a bright puzzle piece in her hand.  This painting was raffled off at the event and Kirsten Thompsen, a Physician's Assistant who teaches at University of New England, won the piece. Kirsten says she will bring the painting to her classes at UNE to share the message with students going into medicine.  It could not have gone to a better patient advocate.

1 comment:

  1. Regina, thank you for forging ahead alone and experiencing the turbulence. Your art and blog are valued by so many of us for the connections you make both literally and physically!