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Monday, December 20, 2010

Social Justice Camp II: On Water Ripples and Spider Webs

Social Justice Camp II: The Empowered Are Back is less than a month away. It will be on two weekends. It will have two locations. These two weekends will bookend and support the work of some amazing local activists and artists. On January 15 and 16, the traditional social justice group will meet. On January 21, we will collide worlds, and social justice will meet health at 7:30 pm at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, located at 4900 Connecticut Avenue. There will be an ignite speech session. These speeches will only be five minutes long and will ignite the passions of the diverse audience. The next day, on January 22, we will start at 10:00 am in an unconference and do many breakout sessions about health and social justice topics until 3:00. We shall build an amazing web of advocacy.

Have you ever truly stared at a spider web? Have you seen it glistening with dew at sunrise? It is a thing of beauty. It is amazing that such a small creature could create something so immense, so beautiful, and so connected. The small spider may seem to work alone on this, dutifully extruding the silk that shall become the web; but all would fail without supports, without connections. Would there be a web without the branch, the shed, or the fencepost to provide a purchase? The web does not exist without a network of support. The web is an amazing tool; it catches sticky thoughts and activates people, and it grows. P1040893

I was invited to attend Health Camp DC by Mark Scrimshire (he is part of my Twitter web) on November 12, 2010. It was a wonderful event. It was hosted in an unconference format and the participants were from diverse health and tech backgrounds. I went to several breakout sessions, and in each session people began to focus on what health services were available to the poor, underrepresented, or disadvantaged within our community. As the conversation went further, I realized most of the people had never worked with the activist community in DC. They had few contacts with those people already making a difference in the public health within community. I was amazed. I asked if anyone had attended Social Justice Camp. I learned that only one attendee, Cindy Throop, had. I decided at that moment that Social Justice Camp must meet the Health 2.0 movement.

What is Social Justice Camp? It consists of an ignite session of short speeches and an unconference. Last year, I was invited to attend Social Justice Camp DC on MLK weekend by Aaron Ginoza. He read about my work on Twitter and thought I would be a good addition to the ignite session of Social Justice Camp. I went with my friend Cindy Throop. It was an amazing night! I met so many empowered and energized activists like Greg Woods and Kelli Shewmaker. They were so inspiring. Then sixteen people gave rapid fire five minute speeches with twenty slides, and I got a very fast immersion education about public health, homeless causes and the power of social media in Washington DC.

I left that meeting energized and made so many wonderful connections that would dramatically affect my life in 2010.

I met Chai Shenoy and Shannon Lynberg with Hollaback DC. They would inform me of the dangerous impact of sexual harassment on the citizens of DC. I would agree to work with them on a mural project, and at this point we are waiting for a wall on which to paint our vision. I would present with them at a Chispa event and blog talk radio.

Save Our Safety Net:  Super Hero Banner

I would meet Joni Podschun and Greg Bloom with the Save Our Safety Net campaign. They would invite me at attend city council meetings to show support for keeping city services intact for our poorest citizens. They created a branding campaign where our council leaders who supported the safety net were depicted as super heroes. So I painted a large banner for them of all the council members who had supported the concept. We then stood arm in arm around the Wilson Building supporting the safety net and holding up the banner.

Due to my work with Greg and Joni, I would talk with Lance Kramer, who would ask me to work on the healthy food in DC schools campaign. Lance and I came up with a great arts action but would not get to complete it due to a city council decision, but Lance would contact me over the summer to place a show of my advocacy art in the local coffee shop Modern Times in the Politics and Prose bookstore.


I met Eric Sheptock at Social Justice Camp. He was recently profiled in The Washington Post, and would learn firsthand of his homeless advocacy while being himself homeless. He would become a good friend on Facebook and would inspire me to host several events at my church St. Paul’s, that would fund our homeless shelter and homeless causes in DC.

Deal Social Justice Murals

In February, I would begin working with the 6th, 7th and 8th grade artists at Deal Middle School on a series of six social justice murals. I would get to talk and work with fifty youths as they focused on, discussed, and then painted about social justice issues throughout the globe. These six paintings are on permanent display at the school. They look so pretty when you just glance at them, but if you take a moment and truly look at them, you can see the sadness they convey.


I would meet Amanda Jones from Out of The Boat Ministries, and she would alert me to the homeless youth who must couch surf from home to home as they do not have a safe place to live. Then during the blizzard in February, I would see a tweet from Amanda saying that she would need a place to stay once she came home via Union Station as none of the over-ground Metro stations were working. I replied that I was only five blocks from Van Ness/UDC, so she trudged over four foot drifts to come to spend the night. She played for hours with Isaac and filled our house with joy as she couch-surfed into our lives. In March, she would rally with me for patient’s rights. In May, she would come back to help me run a rummage sale at St. Paul’s Lutheran to help homeless ministries.

Isaac and Ben at the Diner

I would meet Ben Merrion who works with the non-profit DC Learns adult literacy outreach at MLK Library. I would find out that Ben was on the board of Hollaback DC. Ben too would rally with me in March for patients' rights. He would also attend my gallery show at Clinovations in July even though it meant missing a church choir practice. I would find out that in addition to being an activist, he was as geeky as the rest of my friends and family. He would come over and watch long Doctor Who marathons with Will Kemp, Michael Wenthe, Rebecca Boggs, and our little family. He helped bring back joy and laughter to my boys and me, and I can happily say that we both have Facebook profiles that state we are in a relationship. I think of the "trouble" we can cause together.

So, I can rightly say Social Justice Camp rocked my world. I made so many contacts that opened my eyes and sent me into new directions of thought. So, I would like all my health friends to meet all my activist friends so we can create some great ripples together. That is why I have teamed up with Social Justice Camp.

I would like to throw a stone in the water and watch the ripples grow. I would like to see what happens when we get such amazing people together and create an intricate web. I hope you can join me…. You can register to attend at here.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Praying with Chuck Denham

Prayer and Meditation at IHI

I have told you before that as a child I worked at a local flea market in Sapulpa, Oklahoma. It was hard, dirty work, and it made me despise at a very young age any passing fad or craze. You see, every couple years after a fad died the over-abundance of certain products would crowd our stall and be almost impossible to sell. I, to this day, cannot stand termite shoes, Rubik’s cubes or feather earrings. But I truly disliked the many mugs, wall hangings, and decorative pillows emblazoned with the words to “Footprints in the Sand.” As a child, I found distasteful the hokey 1970's imagery of the beach sand and the disappearing footprints next to text written in mass-produced faux calligraphy. I am sure you are familiar with the tale. In it a man walks with God along a beach as the memories of his life pass him by. He notices in his darkest times there is only one set of footprints. He questions God, “Why did you leave me at my saddest moments?” God responds that when there was only one set of footprints that was when God carried him.

As a child, I really did not like “Footprints in the Sand.” In many of the pictures, it seemed like Jesus was carrying the dead- their arms limp and dangling. I did not want to look at this, and I did not want to be carried. Perhaps, as I was young, that memory of being carried, that loss of control or will was too fresh, so I could not accept this image. When I was a child, I spoke as a child; I understood as a child, I thought as a child

Now, I am often asked "How do you do all that you do? How do you have the energy to balance teaching art, advocacy, blogging, giving speeches, and painting?" Well, I do not do walk alone. I pray, and God gives me the energy to sustain this life.

I remember one point when Fred was in the hospital, when all things within this life seemed so very dark. I remember praying for the peace of God, that it fill me and uplift me. And it did. I remember the moment. I was walking through the hospital cafeteria praying silently when I was filled with the love and light of God. My face was lit with an inner peace and even the hospital workers remarked upon my visage. The footprints artist had gotten it all wrong: when God carries you, you float.

Time has passed, and I no longer burn with this inner fire. I smolder. The journey is long, and I know the spirit is still within. I listen carefully and watch for “God moments.” My sister Esther and I call those moments of divine direction that happen with our lives “God moments.” I listen, I am open to direction, and I know the freedom of putting one’s life in God’s hands. So when I was invited to speak at 2010 CMS QualityNet Conference on December 2 in Baltimore, I said yes.

And that is how I met Chuck Denham.
Do you know Dr. Charles Denham? He is an amazing man. He worked with many cancer patients over the years as he has a background in oncology. He is founder and Chairman of TMIT (Texas Medical Institute of Technology), a non profit driving adoption of patient safety solutions and in this capacity he teamed up with CareFusion and AORN (Association of periOperative Registered Nurses) to produce “Chasing Zero” for the Discovery Channel.

Chasing Zero” first aired in April of 2010. It stars Dennis Quaid in his new real-life role as a patient’s rights advocate. It is a very strong documentary about patient safety, and it made quite a splash in the world healthcare and patient advocacy. I had seen parts of it before meeting Chuck. I knew about the reason why Dennis Quaid was acting as a spokesman for patient safety as well. I had seen a repeat of his March 2009 appearance on Oprah while Fred was sick in the hospital. I heard him speak about the fateful overdose of his young twins due to a case of look-a-like bottles of blood thinner. The twins were mistakenly given a dose from a 10,000-unit bottle instead of a ten-unit bottle… and it happened twice. The twins did live, but this acted as a wake up call for Dennis, and he decided to help so others would not have to suffer as his family did. Dennis Quaid’s inclusion helped a strong documentary become a must-watch call to action.

Chuck asked me how I had gotten invited to CMS. I couldn’t tell him at that moment as I had forgotten the complete course of events, but now I see clearly.

I spoke before CMS, because on Sunday, May 3, 2009 I worked at Barstons Child’s Play- the toy store. I only worked at the toy store for three days when Fred was sick, and one of those days was May 3. Fifteen minutes before the store closed, Christine Kraft, a long time customer, came in, and I told her about Fred and kidney cancer, and she told me about Twitter, blogging, Health 2.0,and ePatient Dave. After Fred entered hospice, Christine put together a small Health 2.0 get together on May 27, 2009. That day I met Ted Eytan, MD. I would later find out he worked at Clinovations in DC and he would introduce me to Greg Fuller who would pitch patient participation at CMS on November 8. Greg would give them my name.

So on December 2, I spoke before CMS about Fred, patients’ rights, Stephen King, social media, special education, and Cub Scouts. I would tell them that putting the “H” in HIT requires remembering… Holliday, Fred; not the patient in room 6218. After I finished, a slow standing ovation spread through the room. Then Chuck Denham can over to speak with me about how he would like to spread this message far and wide. We spoke briefly, and when he learned we would both be at IHI on December 5, he asked me to film a small piece we could send to clinicians about why it is so very important that patients and caregivers have access to the electronic medical record.
Then Chuck did something very few people have ever done. He asked me how I was feeling, and he really listened to my answer.

I told him that when I paint or speak I go into that gray, sad place, and I walk in darkness for a while, but I come back renewed and refreshed. Chuck told me he has worked with many advocates, and he is concerned. He is concerned about our continual revisiting our deepest sadness, just so we can tell our tale to others. He worries about us and wants help us. So when we were filming on December 5, he asked what is it that helps me and inspires me and what supports me in my sorrow? I looked him in the eye, and I said God does.

So Dr. Charles Denham did something that no other doctor has ever done with me. In all the hospitals we stayed in, no doctor ever reached out and prayed with me.

In the many hospitals Fred stayed in, we were asked during admitting if we would like “a spiritual consultation.” This was asked with all the presence and compassion as the familiar phrase, “Do you want fries with that?” Even at hospice, when the bereavement coordinator spoke to me, she focused on my emotional support system. I told her that God sustains me. She rephrased it to me, “You mean that your belief system helps uphold you.” “No,” I said. “My belief system does not hold uphold me. God enters my soul and gives me peace.”

So, I sat there with Chuck and we prayed, and once again, I felt that wonderful peace of God.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

"Patient Centered Care" at IHI

"Patient Centered Care" in process

“Patient Centered Care” as shown above is in progress on the 5th of December, 2010 at IHI Conference in Orlando, Florida.

I paint about health data. I paint about patient stories and better healthcare practices. I paint about these concepts on public walls by city streets or on the backs of business jackets of healthcare advocates as they attend medical conferences. And sometimes I paint on canvases in the middle of a conference. When I paint onsite, I listen carefully to that which is said and incorporate the spoken meme as well as the twitter feed into the painting.

Regina Holliday hands with Maureen Bisognano, President and CEO, Institute for Healthcare Improvement

This painting is “Patient Centered Care” and I painted this at IHI (Institute for Healthcare Improvement) during the Patient Activist Summit and during two mini sessions on Health IT, Meaningful Use and Patient Data. If you look closely at this painting you see the background is the deep purple outline of the IHI logo. As the patient summit began the power point display was one slide. That slide was the IHI Logo. It loomed large above us as each activist introduced himself or herself. There were 50 or so activists and they were supposed to introduce themselves with a Twitter intro, keep it short only 140 characters. Not many were on Twitter so perhaps they misunderstood as they spoke too long during introductions. Perhaps they understood perfectly well, but after being in situations where no one listened while they or their loved ones where medically harmed, they were desperate for the chance to talk. So the “I” in the painting began to radiate circular waves of communication like a radio tower set to transmit. So we spoke, some tweeted and I painted.

I stepped back and listened to the patients and clinicians in the room who were willing to grasp hands and support the changing world of healthcare. So within the painting stand two beings. One is male and one is female and they are golden and seem almost holy and they clasp arms to support the world above them. On the right side of the golden female figure, a doctor stands. He is serene. His hand is placed under the golden women’s arm supporting her and joining in her effort. To the left, a young boy supports the arm of the golden male figure. In his other hand he holds an I-pad as this is the way the child communicates within his world. Both the boy and the doctor are people of color. Their inclusion is viewed as instrumental in creating balance within healthcare. Though they are on opposites sides of the canvas, they are the same person at different stages in one life.

To the far left, a suffering cancer patient leans on the shoulder of the golden male figure. Her gown back is gaping, but she is far beyond caring about this embarrassment, as she is deep within the final stages of her disease. She is leaning on the system for support and has no more energy to give. In front of her stands a child. This girl holds a children’s book about Phineas Gage. Do you know about Phineas Gage? He was a man who lived in the nineteenth century and had a metal rod driven through his brain. His story- the patient story- greatly affected the thinking of the times in regards to personality and the lobes of the brain. The child knows this story, she has read it in a children’s book. She knows about the power of stories.

Regina Holliday speaking about patient center care

The world in the center of the painting is the dot of the “I.” It is forms a yin and yang symbol within IHI where we are struggling to find balance. On the left side of the world North America is represented because that is where IHI began. An eye looks upon you from the continent. It is looking at you, demanding you use vision in creating better care. To the right side is a clock. The numerals are in Latin and the choice to depict time in ancient increments represents the current lack of clear communication and a reliance on old antiquated systems within many medical institutions. Both the hour hand and minute hand point to three ‘o’clock as we try to support the “triple-aim.” The clock itself represents an oft-heard clarion call of the activist: the time for change is now.CIMG0036

In the center of the world clock resides a call bell. Bart Windrum brought this bell so each activist could ring it after recounting his or her tale. It reminds us of to the old call bells patients used before modern technology introduced the silent, efficient and sometimes ignored call button. This bell is red and it represents warning. It is also a Liberty Bell and emblazoned upon it are the words “Information Liberty.” Above and connected to the bell are the scales of justice and they too point to the desperate need for balance between the provider and the patient.

Below the world is a table set to explain why clinicians need to consider EMR adoption. This element is based on the talk given by Ann Lefebvre, called “Integrating Health IT into a Statewide QI Program.” She mentioned that they invite their clinicians to discuss systems and EMR’s four times a year. So the table is set with plates saying things like EMR and HIT. The two candelabras at the table light the surroundings but they also contain the symbols of money and percentages. Often these kinds of talks can be more about incentives and dry data bytes and less about the actual patient outcomes.

Regina Holliday talking about the Twitter stream at IHI

Below the table is the Twitter feed for the conference and that pours into the patient centered medical home. The roof of this house is the IHI triple aim: population health, experience of care and per capita cost. The Cub Scout character connection of know, commit and practice surrounds it. I threw that in as I am a Den Leader and know that change only happens when you promise to do your best and you keep your promise. At the door of the home stands a very small patient. Patient centered care was discussed in an in depth fashion by Laura Adams, J. Robson and Jaquelyn S. Hunt during “Whose care is it anyway…and Can Health IT Help.” The patient is holding up a ruler and trying very hard to be centered, but if you look closely, you see the center of the painting and the home is slightly off kilter. This lack of center exists in the painting because that is the current experience in US health care. But there is hope. Due to the work of the folks from IHI and Patient Activists and Clinicians we have hope of attaining balance, and making this vision of the future a reality.

The finished piece can be viewed here. I hope you get a chance to look at it. This photo was taken right before I addressed the room about our family story and the meaning of the painting. I was not on the agenda that day, but the speakers were so gracious as to ask me to present. I told them about the very personal reason I advocate and I explained the painting.

The entire room of attendee's to the session "Who's Care is it any way...." gathered around the painting. You will see me in the middle, slightly left of center. I suppose that is a good place to be as we strive toward patient centered care.

The EMR crowd at IHI beside Regina Holliday's New Painting "Patient Centered Care"

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


caregivers clock
I am very honored to post a guest post on this blog. This post was written by Alisa Gilbert.

What A Caregiver Taught Me About Human Connection

This past summer, my best friend lost her grandmother to old age. She died a few days before her ninety-third birthday. She had suffered a serious stroke the winter before, and had been shifted from her nursing home to hospice care later that spring.

A team of caregivers rotated through their shifts to care for her, to change her bedding and diapers, to feed her and make her as comfortable as possible, in what I used to think of as a simple, perhaps distant activity. Now I understand that much more can come of proper care-giving. Towards the end, after her grandmother had suffered a series of minor strokes, my friend described how they used a miniature vacuum to clear mucus from her mouth. I had never understood the emotional and physical toll that hospice care can have upon everyone involved—the staff, the patient, and the family members—until I had to comfort my friend through that tough half of the year.

Each day she returned from visiting her grandmother, I heard stories of one specific caregiver, Mary, who seemed to have taken her job and utterly transformed it into a lifelong calling. My friend's family had dealt with other caregivers that seemed less interested, a pair of which had quit in the final days because they decided they'd be better off looking for more work, so to hear the talk of Mary seemed encouraging despite the sadness of the situation.

One day that final month my friend asked me to visit her grandmother with her, so I steeled my nerves and went along. Besides I wanted to meet Mary. When we entered the room, we were greeted by a short, middle-aged woman with brown hair and tears in her eyes. She immediately hugged my friend, and then hugged me, after which I was introduced. Mary gave us an update on the day, all of its tiny particulars, and then my friend sat by her grandmother.

Mary gave us a moment alone, and when she returned, my friend left to use the restroom, so I was alone with Mary and my friend's sleeping grandmother. Mary made small talk with me for several minutes, and then I watched as she quietly reached over to my friend's grandmother and with a cloth gently wiped at the corner of her mouth.

I understand that this is not necessarily a unique gesture, but it still struck me for the power I felt in the room. I will never forget the way Mary sort of filled the room with her emotions that day. She struck me as the kind of person who had a deep, deep respect for both her patients and the family members of her patients. I'm not sure I have ever witnessed in someone a sympathy for others as strong as hers. In a way, her example, the way she acted in that little hospice room made me rethink how I consider those who are sick and those who take care of them, and the warm connections that can exist between them.


This guest post is contributed by Alisa Gilbert, who writes on the topics of bachelors degree. She welcomes your comments at her email Id: