Growing up, I liked spelling, I liked English, I loved reading and I loved word games - I was a nerdy kid. So, not surprisingly, when my children were young, we had a “Word of the Week.” Some of the favorites were “edible” and “impeccable.” It was a fun family game: We tried to use a particular word as often as we could during the week. We kept a running list of the Word of the Week on the refrigerator.
Fast forward eight years to now and, as I shared with the School of Medicine chairs recently, I feel that we need a Word of the Year. For me, that word is PERSISTENCE.
For many years, one of my favorite quotes has been this one by Calvin Coolidge:
“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: Nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not: Unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: The world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”
Perhaps this word speaks to me so clearly because, as I have shared with you before, I am rarely the smartest person in the room, and I have never won any talent contests. But I firmly believe in hard work, determination and stick-to-it-ness - all of which are embodied in the word “persistence.”
Our world of academic medicine encompasses health care delivery, education and scientific discovery. It has always been and always will be an environment filled with challenges. Each one of the core mission areas has its own set of unique challenges which, when blended, create a milieu unlike any other stand-alone hospital, educational institution or research organization.
At times, the challenges seem too large to meet, much less to overcome. At the moment, for example, we're dealing with a number of unexpected financial challenges. State revenues have consistently been lower than projected, so we've received a series of mid-year cuts to our state appropriation. Even worse, we recently learned of a $39 million decrease in our disproportionate share (DSH) funding, which we receive through the state Division of Medicaid for providing care to large numbers of Medicaid and uninsured patients. Although we're appealing the reduction, this is one of those challenges that falls in the “staggering” category.
Despite such concerns, these two powerful thoughts provide the inspiration each day to maintain the mantra of persistence:
First, we live in a place of great need. At the end of the day, all of us can know with confidence the work we are doing matters and we have made a difference.
Second, our leaders, our faculty, our staff and our students are committed to the threefold mission of this medical center. That is a tremendous amount of heart, soul and energy pulling in the same direction. This is where the power to overcome our challenges is born.
Persistence. It matters more than talent, more than intelligence, more than knowledge. Set your sights on something and keep on keeping on. Persistence will help us achieve our fondest dreams and bring us closer to A Healthier Mississippi.
P.S. I have just completed the 4th quarter clinical quality reviews and want to give a shout out - call it my “Persistence Prize” - to the Department of Pediatrics (especially the NICU) and the Neuroscience ICU for achieving the highest rate of hand hygiene compliance. The area most in need of additional “persistence” in hand hygiene is Perioperative Services. I have no doubt this team will bear down and show improvement in our next review.