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Friday, March 2, 2012

Ashes: HIMSS Day 1

I left for HIMSS12 conference in Las Vegas on Ash Wednesday. 

My flight was at 5:45 in the morning.  I knew I would be spending my entire day at a casino hotel, so I went to get ashes from my Pastor on Tuesday.  I had helped our Church Vicar Cassandra Lamb the year before with the Imposition of Ashes at a local metro stop.  So I felt I could take the “ashes to go” a step further and bring it them to Las Vegas.

You do not blend into a crowd, even in Vegas, with ashes on your face and a painting on your back.

I was not the only person standing out within the crowd; there were several walkers from The Walking Gallery at HIMSS.  They stood out with their declaration of faith in a concept.   They believe that the patient voice must be heard within the halls of medicine and technology.

There were at least 25 members of the Walking Gallery wearing patient advocacy jackets at HIMISS.  As one of my friends quipped we are the 1%.  We were more like the .1% of the 37,000 attendees.

JoAnn Klinedinst, Ileana Balcu, Liza Sisler, Sue Woods, Matthew Browning, Todd Park, Ross Martin, Kym Martin, Colin Hung, Sherry Reynolds, David Collins, Brian Ahier, Gregg Masters, Janice McCallum, Jane Sarasohn-Kahn, Mary Anne Sterling, Dave DeBronkart, Paulo Machado’s, Keith Boone, Kourtney Govro, Lizzie Dunklee, Donna Scott, Mark Scrimshire, and Lygeia Ricciardi were there representing the patient voice. 

We might have been a tiny fraction of all the attendees, but we were noticed. 

The conference space itself was a mammoth construct of hotel wings built one upon the other in an endless maze of hallways and dead-ends.  I was carrying the weight of 10 jackets upon my back for most of the day so the endless circuitous paths were quite tiresome.   I hope that the EHR designers that roamed these endless halls took this lesson to heart: overbuilt structures and switchback paths are not welcome in the world of the weary traveler or the world of data.    

After securing my name badge, I hurried out the exhibition floor.  I saw a lot of booths.  Some had candy, some had cars, some had “booth babes” and some had all three.  Everywhere I turned the air hummed with electricity and the visual field was dominated with computer screens.  It was a very large exhibition floor, and many venders were so busy that I passed through their stalls without remark.

Clay at Cerner

That being said, I had some lovely conversations with folks in several booths.   I spoke at length with Clay Patterson from Cerner about the potential of patient portals to improve health and wellbeing.  Also in the Cerner booth they had healthy snacks and water, which I relished a great deal.  I stopped by AZZLY too to see Turner Dean, and met with him later that evening as the Walking Gallery gathered.  I met Liza Sisler in the Microsoft booth and had a heart to heart conversation with Judith L. Kolde about patient care at end of life.  Then I gave Liza her jacket for the gallery.

Liza and her jacket

I met Jerry Faiella in The JACO booth and we discussed the hygiene advantages of powder coat steel C.O.W.S  (computers on wheels).  I also spoke with Bill Rizos from afc industries, inc. and our conversation encompassed HAI to HIE.  I also got to speak with the nice gentlemen in the Hospira Booth.  Steve Severt and Roddick Adair explained the wonders of IV clinical integration as I praised their pump as the best we had used when my late husband was sick. 

I spent time with several members of the Society for Participatory Medicine discussing patient advocacy and painted stories.  Dirk Stanley, MD has a background in art and we began a very technical discussion about paint quality.  That was super cool.  

Keith and a story

Then Keith Boon introduced me to me to his friend who is part of one of the stories depicted on his back.  Keith noticed the ashes on my forehead and said, “Oh no, I forgot it was Ash Wednesday.”  I said “Keith, I have ashes with me.  I am Lutheran, would you like me to give you the Imposition of Ashes?”  He said yes and I spoke the words, “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.”  We then parted ways and each of us went to advocate for the least among us.   

The Gallery

Many of us met later that evening in a small gathering of the gallery. It was so good to spend time together discussing our individual missions and our combined goals.

At the close of day, I walked and walked through endless halls and smoky casino rooms to find a taxi to take me to my hotel.  The line for taxis stretched around the block, but near the front of the line I saw my friend Antonio Fernandez from the Puerto Rico REC.  He hugged me warmly and we shared a cab.  He too saw my ashes as we parted and I assured him what was on one’s face was not as important as what was in one’s heart.

I went into my hotel tired in body but refreshed in spirit as a loved and loving member of The Walking Gallery.


  1. Thanks for the ashes, and the jacket, and everything else. Remember what rises out of ahses, the Phoenix...

  2. You are indeed a Phoenix my friend.