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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Cerner on September 11th

I often paint at medical conferences in the back of ballrooms or on the exhibition floor.  When I was painting at the HISA conference in Australia, a lovely woman came over to my easel.  She looked at my work and noticed I was painting in the Cerner booth.  She told me she had a story she wanted share with me about a Cerner conference she attended many years before.  That story was so powerful I asked if I could paint it on her jacket so she could join The Walking Gallery.  She said yes.

This is “The Right Thing” a jacket for Lissa.


On September 11th, 2001 Lissa was at a Cerner health conference in Kansas City entitled “Crossing the Chasm.”  It was a typical conference day and sessions began early.  Doctors and nurses from all over the US were there.  As the morning progressed word spread through the room that something horrible had happened in New York.  Caregivers from the New York area began to call airlines trying to fly back to help.  Quickly they and the folks at Cerner found out all flights were grounded. 

Then the leadership at Cerner contacted a bus company and chartered buses to drive attendees back to New York.  They announced that the buses would be there soon and anyone who wanted to get back could return home in this fashion. 

Next they must decide what to do.  The room was full of attendees and there were speakers prepared to speak; yet at the same moment tragedy was unfolding.  Cerner decided the conference must continue so they set up a screen showing the Twin Towers as speakers spoke of crossing the quality chasm.

Speaking while they die

Can you imagine that?  Right beside a speaker addressing the future of medicine and the chasm in care, a building burned and lives were extinguished in real time.  This was such a powerful moment.  This is the heart of the matter.  When we talk of death at medical conferences it is often hidden behind statistics and bar charts and does not have the visceral impact of life destroyed before our very eyes.

Yesterday, I had the privilege of hearing Clay Patterson from Cerner speak as part of a vender panel at HHS.  He did not tell us about the newest module available on a Cerner system.  He told us about the challenging care and poor communication his family experienced before his grandmother’s death.

In less than two weeks Cerner will again host a conference in Kansas City in September.  It will be the Partnership with Patients Summit.  We will meet there and discuss the chasm of care with doctors, venders, nurses and patients.  And I hope to see some of you there.  I hope to hold you in my arms and remember all of those we have lost.

People have asked me, “How did you get Cerner to host this?”  I responded, “I asked and they said yes.”  It was the right thing to do.


  1. Regina, thanks for sharing your story, this story and many others... It is always a good reminder of the importance of the work we all need to continue to do and to always put the patient and family at the center.

  2. I was and am still an associate with Cerner. Thank you so much for sharing this story. I am very proud to be associated with a company that leads by example. We were united in shock and grief. We had no idea what the future held in the dark hours and days that followed that horrific day. We all need to remember not just the hours of terror, but the acts of kindness and courage exhibited during a time of extreme uncertainty. Let that be the gift of those that perished that day. Let's live each day honoring that memory though our acts of generosity and courageous to our fellow citizens of the world. May we all be better people in the end.

    1. It was a moment when we all came together and hope people never forget.

  3. Thank you so much for sharing this. I am also a Cerner Associate who was in my college freshman biology class when these tragic events unfolded. I have heard many stories of how our company reacted and I am so proud to be an associate. Each and everyday I get the opportunity to connect with great organizations all trying to make life better for the populations they serve. In the end we are all working toward the same goal and are on the same team and this serves as a great reminder of that. Thank you again for helping us remember a tragic event in a warming light.

    1. Thank you for sharing your remembrance of that day. We are all on the same team and is nice when that is apparent.

  4. Regina, I was also a Cerner associate and was there at that time. Some of my friends/colleagues from New Zealand were at the conference and of course were stranded. We opened our home to them and tried to make some sense of things. We all kept going with the conference so people would have something positive to do while they worried about families at home. We had critical leaders from hospitals in Washington and New York at the conference, as well as other leaders who needed to get back to their health systems for this emergency. Cerner helped them find cars, busses - whatever it took to get them home. And for those who chose to stay there were TVs in quiet places to watch and prayer areas. Courage has been define as grace under fire. That is truly what I saw in those days.

    Thanks for sharing this story, and for letting so many of us remember some of the positives in the people who stepped up.