CMS’ Jeff Cooper Leads Plenary Session at the National Patient Safety Foundation Annual Congress in Washington, DC.

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NPSF Congress – May 2011 

CMS’ Jeff Cooper led a stellar team of simulation experts in conducting an amazing Plenary session at the National Patient Safety Foundation annual congress on Friday, May 27 in Washington, DC.  Doug Bonacum, VP of Safety Management for Kaiser Permanente and co-chair of the NPSF meeting, did a quite memorable introduction of Jeff to the audience.  Haru Okuda led a “sim wars”-like onstage simulation with an Emergency Department team from the Washington Medical Center, Medstar Health.  The team managed the care of a patient who had chest pain while in the audience.  Robin Wootten was the patient’s simulation wife and got him up onto the onstage “Emergency Department”, where he became a mannequin, of course.  An error committed by confederate nurse Jared Kutsin led the team to have a disclosure discussion with the family, accompanied by a (confederate) patient safety officer, who was in the audience.  Paul Preston and Connie Lopez led the debriefing of the disclosure.  Jeff ended the session with an overview of the scope and purposes of simulation.  The session was a powerful learning experience about simulation and especially its use for practice in disclosing adverse events.

Introduction of Jeff Cooper, NPSF Congress – May 2011 

All of us here at CMS know how remarkable a person and leader Jeff is, so it’s great when we hear that others feel the same way.  The following is the introduction to the audience at the NPSF’s Plenary Session  given by Doug Bonacum, VP of Safety Management for Kaiser Permanente and co-chair of the meeting:

The orchestra leader of our next plenary is the founder and executive director of the Center for Medical Simulation in Boston. 

Jeff Cooper studied human error in medicine in the 1970’s, more than 20 years before the term “patient safety” became vogue.  As a biomedical engineer in the Dept of Anesthesia at the Mass General, Jeff watched how anesthesia was delivered, listened to stories of how errors occurred, and worked collaboratively with others in his department to make anesthesia care safer.  His study on human factors in anesthesia was published in 1978!

In 1985, 14 years before what I use to think of as the birth of the patient safety movement, Jeff created the Anesthesia Patient Safety Foundation.  That was the first organization in the world that focused exclusively on patient safety and its research eventually led Jeff to see the value of simulation training for patient safety.

Using funding available from the Anesthesia Patient Safety Foundation, a team at Stanford University and the VA Palo Alto developed a simulator-based curriculum on what was called Anesthesia Crew Resource Management (ACRM).  The year was 1990.  3 Years later, Jeff and a team from the Harvard-affiliated hospitals paid a visit to the West Coast and came back to establish the Boston Anesthesia Simulation Center…the first dedicated center to teach ACRM in the world.

Today, Jeff is the Executive Director of what became known as the Center for Medical Simulation, which has moved well past ACRM, all the way to the floor of this Congress today. 

For his accomplishments over the past 40 years, Jeff has received not only one, but two Lifetime Achievement Awards, and more recently, had a patient safety award established in his name.  Now, Lifetime Achievement Awards are few in patient safety, because few have worked a lifetime, like Jeff, for it…but if Jeff were in the recording industry, he would be in the same company as these Grammy Lifetime Awardees: 

Bing Crosby
Frank Sinatra
Louis Armstrong
Johnny Cash; and
Elvis Presley

In short, Jeff is a rock star, but you wouldn’t know it from talking to him.  Earlier this week, I heard him introduce himself to our Patient Safety Fellows as follows: “Hi, I’m Jeff.  I’m a simulation guy.”  Can you imagine Bing or Frank or Elvis introducing themselves that way?  “Hi, I’m Elvis…I’m a hip-shaking guy.”

So, I had to talk to some people who work with Jeff more closely to affirm some things I had picked up from afar.  Here is what they said:

“It’s not about what he knows or has accomplished that’s so great…it’s how he lives his life everyday.”

“He is the most congruent person I have ever met” offered another.  “He does what he espouses, continually re-examines his own thinking and his life, and respectfully invites others to do the same.”

And finally, a 3rd person said, “He is a life-long learner – picking up horseback riding at age 50, and teaching himself to speak Russian and Spanish more recently…He inspires me to be all that I can be.”

Thank you for allowing me a few minutes to speak about Jeff because he is both a founding father of patient safety and of medical simulation and you need to know that about him.  Your being here today is linked to the foundation he began laying some 40 years ago, and for that, he deserves a rock star’s welcome….But because it’s his Birthday tomorrow, how bout we just sing to him instead…