My QI Story
Tuesday, January 15, 2019
A Medical Student's Journey to Quality
Tyson Schwab, MD, MS
As a medical student, one of the more difficult challenges is navigating the ocean of choice when choosing a medical specialty.
Within a medical school class, there is a spectrum of students who all take a different path when deciding the specialty in which they will be spending the remainder of their career. Some students have known since they were a child that they wanted to be a neurosurgeon. Other students end up dual applying for residency because they are still unsure.
I also went through this journey, but found myself in the middle of the spectrum, knowing after my first year that I loved primary care. During medical school, I often felt a need and desire to take a break from repetitively memorizing different physiological pathways and to stimulate my intellectual curiosities in different ways. Although I had many different interests in research, I never fell in love with benchtop research. During my first year of medical school, I was introduced to quality improvement (QI) research and instantly fell in love. I connected with QI research because it is practical, patient-centered, immediately useful and the process also often stimulates additional solutions.
As I progressed through medical school, I continued to work with different groups to conduct different QI projects, which unexpectedly led me to pursue a graduate degree in bioengineering. While studying bioengineering, I was training to correctly identify a clinical problem, study user needs, create and verify input and outputs, and conduct validation and verification to ultimately create effective solutions. Although I was creating medical devices, I quickly saw the value and utility in this process regarding creating solutions for medical quality. I was intrigued to see that this was a type of research that crossed into all specialties and provided effective and affordable solutions.
One of my other medical interests includes health policy. I feel like every physician has the responsibility to be informed and involved (to some degree) in health policy. Within health policy, I always appreciated a local aspect to provide learning and collaboration with experts in my surrounding area. However, I found it extremely important to collaborate and work with experts and colleagues on a national level, as perspectives and experiences are broadly applicable to improvement and creating solutions. The American Medical Association provided this opportunity and prospective for me.
As I continued to progress in QI experience and knowledge, I felt the need to collaborate with QI experts from other academic institutions and healthcare organizations. Like my experience with health policy, I felt the need to participate and contribute to an organization that focused on medical quality and provided opportunities to collaborate and learn from quality experts. ACMQ provided this opportunity for me.
In 2016, I was extremely fortunate to be awarded the ACMQ Quality Scholar award. As a Quality Scholar, I received professional mentorship from physician leaders in medical quality, countless opportunities for priceless collaboration, and a new network with other motivated leaders. The ACMQ Quality Scholar program is a part of the Student, Resident & Fellows (SRF) section of ACMQ. I consider my experience in the SRF section as one of the top highlights of my medical education and training experience. I quickly came to realize the ACMQ truly believes the future of quality healthcare lies with graduate students and physicians-in-training. As a chronic opportunist, the SRF has provided a career-changing experience that I hope every medical student, resident and fellow in the country utilizes.
My first time attending the ACMQ annual meeting was eye opening and motivating. It was different than other medical conferences I had previously attended because every specialty was represented and together focused on improving quality in medicine. Throughout the conference I attended lectures from industry leaders, collaborated with many chief medical officers from around the country and interacted with other students and residents who were pursuing QI research. My notebook quickly became filled with potential project ideas, innovative process models, and answers to many of my questions that I came to the conference with. Many of the attendees I met at my first ACMQ conference have remained close friends and colleagues, which have, in turn, created a synergistic relationship in pursuing additional innovative QI projects.
As a young physician, I am consistently trying to become more efficient and effective for my patients. Even though practicing high quality medicine is extremely complex and multifactorial, I know that continuing my involvement in QI research will help with this process. Patient care will not be improved from a single QI project; however, patient care will improve because of the mindset and process of QI. After completing a QI project or reading about other QI research, I always feel more confident as a physician with new ideas, improvements and possible solutions.
In my opinion, this is the best time in history to be practicing medicine. There has never been a time with more challenges and potential. The future of healthcare will go one of two directions. One direction is to continue to muddle through the existing system. The second option is to improve the system by focusing on value-based care, consumerism, clinical outcomes and both patient and physician satisfaction. The solutions to these issues may include new programming, education, training, protocols, innovative new technologies, research or something that has yet to be discovered. I am confident that medical quality is going to be the key to discovering these solutions. ACMQ provides an effective and unique opportunity to become an expert in medical quality and will benefit physicians in all specialties and career stages.
If you are interested in sharing your QI story, please send with headshot to firstname.lastname@example.org.