AAIM Conference Showcases Many DOM Projects

From left: Jack Zeng, Gretchen Picache, Bhuvana Ramachandran, Danielle Hendrickson, Rey Naik, and Dalia Vanderzee at the AAIM Conference in front of Bhuvana Ramachandran's poster project.

The recent Alliance for Academic Internal Medicine (AAIM) conference in Charlotte was a landmark moment: the first time the conference was held in person since 2019.  And it was a landmark for the Stanford Department of Medicine, too: a great showing for staff all across our department as they presented their various projects to other Department of Medicine leaders from around the country.

“Because this was the first live conference since the pandemic, everyone was especially excited to be in person,” says Jack Zeng, director of IT applications for Stanford Department of Medicine. 

Beyond meeting people from other universities, it gave many Stanford attendees their first real chance to interact with their own co-workers, many of whom had hardly spent any time together outside of a Zoom square.  There was team building, camaraderie, happy hours, and many panels about process improvement: in other words, the best a conference can be.

DOM team members presented on three major projects, all tied to the general topic of process improvement.  And they were delighted by the reception they got. As Zeng explains, “People in the audience were really excited about what we did.  We could see they really paid attention to each of our slides.”  They had multiple people coming up to them after each presentation to ask questions, make comments, and start to think about implementing the same processes at their own institutions.  The following projects were showcased by the DOM team.

DOM staff at AAIM take a break from presenting. 

Zeng, Vanderzee, and Naik present their project. 

The Idea Garden

One major project, the Idea Garden, was pioneered by Zeng, Rey Naik, assistant division manager of hospital medicine, Dalia Vanderzee, project manager of medicine, James Ramos, and Kim Leung, process excellence manager for the school of medicine, and presented to AAIM by Zeng, Naik, and Vanderzee.  Its basic idea was to both improve staff engagement during a pandemic and create a “culture of continuous process improvement.”  Team members generated and implemented over 200 process improvement ideas in a year.  In order to streamline the process of collecting and assessing ideas, the team designed a web application called “Idea Garden” that “provides a system for everyone in the department to easily submit new ideas.”  The system then allows the process support team to triage and assign these ideas to review committees to assess feasibility and decide to go forward or not.  And in the final stage, people who take the ideas further into implementation can use the system to “record and report progress status.” This idea garden also naturally evolved into a morale-boosting side project: a platform that recognized and praised employees involved in the process for their work in creating and implementing the idea garden projects. 

Faculty Review

The faculty review project, driven by Zeng and Gretchen Picache, MBA, director of academic affairs for medicine, was another major project presentation.  Annual faculty evaluation is, naturally, deeply important to divisions, departments, and of course the faculty themselves.  This project’s outcome prevents the evaluation from “being bogged down by the tedious and labor-intensive process of collecting and organizing data about faculty activities.”  To that end, the team created a new web application developed to automate sourcing, collection, and organization of data related to faculty evaluation and development, greatly reducing time and labor for the faculty.  Crucially, the application also connects division managers, faculty, chiefs, and their delegates all in one interface, so everyone can see the same process and evaluation stages in the cycle.  In other words, it makes sure everyone is on the same page.  And this implementation, as team members explain, will help chiefs and faculty “get together to review the accomplishments, assess career development goals, and map the future paths” of faculty in various divisions.

Picache describes their presentation as a “proud moment,” adding “The audience was engaged and inspired by what we developed, and they asked numerous questions about how they could apply what we’d presented to their own institutions.“

A happy hour dinner at AAIM.

DOM staff relaxing and bonding after an AAIM day.

Cost-Conscious Clinical Trial Operations (C3TO)

Bhuvana Ramachandran, clinical division manager of hematology, presented on Cost-Conscious Clinical Trial Operations, or C3TO (to be read, of course, like the Star Wars android’s name).  This presentation focused on proper financial management of clinical trial (or CT) operations, including proper budgeting, coverage analysis, building contingencies, and timely invoicing of clinical operations (visits).  Using the 6 Sigma Lean Process management, Ramachandran and her team were able to “reduce timelines, increase collections, and boost the financial health of the Principal Investigators in Hematology.”  This allows the PIs to focus on their own work without the financial strain, allowing them to “merge science and compassion,” as Ramachandran puts it, to translate research innovations to bedside treatment options.  In the future they plan to expand their efforts, working on reducing budget, contract, site initiation, and accrual timelines.

A Job Well Done

I was so proud of the work of our department staff and managers. Once again, I’m reminded how our investment in great people has a ripple effect not just here at Stanford but across the country.

In the end, as Zeng explains, the interest generated by all three projects was “quite a testament to the value we created.”  These ideas, projects, processes, and even the meetings of colleagues and forging of new friendships will continue to aid both conference attendees and the people who bring them back to campus.  The goal, as Zeng says, is to make Stanford DOM the best department of medicine in the country.  And as this conference proves, no DOM staff are resting on their laurels.

Ramachandran agrees, “The positive energy of the in-person participants translated to active engagement in the sessions. It was a great place for mutual learning and networking!”

Picache and others hope this experience is the first of many such for DOM staff.  “Presenting and being involved in conferences is a wonderful opportunity for us to showcase our ideas and our work, share it with our peers, and potentially even collaborate with them,” she says, “and it’s a great way to celebrate what we do and represent Stanford Department of Medicine.  I would really like to encourage all our colleagues to think of their own projects and consider presenting them.  Anyone can do this.”

Cathy Garzio, MBA, vice chair and DFA for the DOM, attended all the presentations and remarked, “I was so proud of the work of our department staff and managers.  I’m positive other attendees took some great ideas back to their home institutions.  Once again, I’m reminded how our investment in great people has a ripple effect not just here at Stanford but across the country.  Not only was this work impactful, innovative and important, as our Chair Dr. Harrington likes to say, but our team clearly had a lot of fun working together and showcasing these great projects and ideas.”