University of Pennslyvania Health Systems
Office of Public Affairs
399 South 34th Street, Suite 2002, Penn Tower, Philadelphia, PA 19104-5653

David March, PENN Medicine, (215) 615-3353,

November 6, 2003

Patient Safety is Advanced by Combining Clinical and Business
Skills in Unique Educational Program

(Philadelphia, PA) – The Department of Surgery at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, the Wharton School and the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics of the University of Pennsylvania have joined together to establish the nation’s first management training program designed to improve patient safety by improving the leadership skills of the clinical team. Called the Penn Medicine Patient Safety Leadership Academy, the program takes 42 mid-level clinical personnel, from all aspects of the surgical process – doctors, nurses, physician assistants, and residents – through a seven-month course of intense weekend conferences and practical case studies to see how they can apply sound management practices to improving patient safety.

“Surgery is a highly complicated management process, with up to 30 different stakeholders involved in the most basic procedures, yet everyone has a role to play in patient safety, from start to finish,” said Jim Mullen, MD, Professor and Vice Chair of Surgery at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center. “After nurturing the concept for several years, we have chosen to heavily invest in the development of leadership and management skills of these clinical leaders anticipating downstream benefits on patient safety.”

The Patient Safety Leadership Academy is a tremendous opportunity to use the educational skills from the nation’s leading business school to benefit patient safety at HUP, one of the nation’s top five surgical centers.

The Leadership Academy, which began in October 2003 and runs through May 2004, is a pilot program designed to prove how “administrative empowering” of mid-level managers involved in a surgical case improves patient safety. Teams of seven clinicians will look at common managerial questions that arise in surgical situations. Each team will design a project to improve communication and, ultimately, patient safety in surgical care where errors are most likely to happen: i.e. between residency handoffs; moving from pre-operative care to the operating room and between units, or during shift changes in lengthy surgeries; communication at the time of discharge; and during patient transport between procedures. Some of the common managerial questions that can be applied to surgical setting include: How do you make leadership decisions in the face of uncertainty? How do you enact positive changes for patient safety in your work system and its current organizational culture? How do you negotiate with a multi-disciplinary team and have the patient win? What do you need to know about health care finance in order to get a financial decision-maker on your side?

For practical exposure, learning teams will work on a specific patient safety project to apply their new leadership skills. A Wharton faculty member will serve as mentor to each team and a panel of Wharton and School of Medicine faculty will act as project advisors. Participants are measured on their progress by pre- and post-program surveys.

“This is a collaboration of the best in business and the best in surgery,” said Kathy Pearson, PhD, Academic Director of the Wharton School. “The Patient Safety Leadership Academy, if successful, could become a national learning model for improving patient safety and management practices in surgery. If other institutions see that Penn has a successful model for effective organizational and cultural change that improves patient safety, then they, too, can follow our lead. New training techniques are more likely to catch on if they have the backing of two reputable institutions, such as Penn Surgery and the Wharton School.”

Funding for the Patient Safety Leadership Academy was provided by a grant from the Philadelphia Health Care Trust. A copy of the Leadership Academy program is available at:

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The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP), founded in 1874 as the nation’s first teaching hospital, is today ranked consistently by US News and World Report as one of the nation’s “Honor Roll” hospitals. HUP physicians are faculty in the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine -- which is ranked #4 in the nation by US News and World Report in its annual survey of research-oriented medical schools. Penn’s School of Medicine is also ranked #2 in the nation for receipt of NIH research funds.

About The Wharton School:
The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania is recognized around the world for its academic strengths across every major discipline and at every level of business education. Founded in 1881 as the first collegiate business school in the nation, Wharton has approximately 4,600 undergraduate, MBA, doctoral students, more than 8,000 participants in its executive programs annually, and an alumni network of more than 75,000 worldwide.

About the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics
The Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics is a cooperative venture among Penn's Schools of Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing, and Wharton and is the University of Pennsylvania's center for health services research, health policy analysis, and health care management executive education.

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