The American Society of Professionals in Patient Safety (ASPPS) is a membership program for professionals
and others interested in patient safety. This is the first in a series of member profiles.
by Joanna Carmona
Paul Epner, MBA, MEd, Co-Founder and Executive Vice President for the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine, Chair of the Coalition to Improve Diagnosis, Immediate Past President for the Clinical Laboratory Management Association
Why patient safety?
“I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease at 16. I was subsequently hospitalized many times as an adult with some significant adverse events, giving me the drive to get involved with the patient engagement and safety movement. Coincidentally, I worked for 31 years in the Diagnostics Division of Abbott Laboratories working in the US, Japan, and China. When I left Abbott, it was to focus on issues of patient safety and quality of care, especially from a clinical laboratory focus as I believe the current narrow emphasis on in-lab costs totally misses the economic and patient benefits of a more care-centric clinical laboratory. That led me to diagnostic error, which led me to the Society to Improve Diagnosis of Medicine, and that led me to the National Patient Safety Foundation. It’s been a journey and I'm still on it.”
Why did you join the ASPPS?
“My activities following my retirement from Abbott reflect a shift from making a profit to making a difference. I saw what was happening at the ASPPS, I went through the programming, heard the patients’ stories, and I said, ‘This is great! I have to invest in this. This is an investment in me, it's an investment in healthcare, and it's worth doing.’”
||"This is an investment in me,
it's an investment in healthcare,
and it's worth doing
In your opinion, what’s the future of the patient safety movement?
“This movement is critical to strengthening the quality and cost of care. I believe we have made great progress, but that people do recognize we're not there yet, and so the journey is still moving forward. I feel pretty good that with every step forward we will be saving lives and improving the experience for patients.”
Could you tell us about your work with diagnostic error at the Coalition to Improve Diagnosis?
“The Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine (SIDM) catalyzed the NAS report on Improving Diagnosis, but we recognized that we were too small to maximize the impact of this important work, so we convened the Coalition to Improve Diagnosis in order to partner with like-minded organizations in making diagnosis more accurate, safe, reliable, and efficient. It’s very exciting that the Coalition has grown to 23 major organizations. In addition to the individual actions each organization has committed to implement, we will work collectively to move some major initiatives that are still in the planning stage.”
What’s something unique or interesting about you?
“I have been fortunate to inherit many great things from my parents, but with them came a long list of chronic health conditions. In order to combat them, I took up running in my mid-forties and am hoping to run a marathon this year. It won’t be my first. In fact, for my 50th birthday, I ran a 50-mile ultramarathon, but it’s been more than 10 years since my last marathon, so I am really looking forward to the training challenge.”
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Joanna Carmona is communications coordinator at the National Patient Safety Foundation. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.