This past week, I had the opportunity to interview Dr. Donald Berwick at a Harvard School of Public Health forum. We talked about his early days in the 1980s when he started the now-world famous Institute for Healthcare Improvement, based in Cambridge. We discussed his movement in the 1990s into health policy that led to the ground-breaking Institute of Medicine reports: To Err Is Human and Crossing the Quality Chasm. He reflected on his 17 months running the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). And he looked ahead to his nascent campaign for Governor of Massachusetts in 2014.
Regular Health Stew readers already know I am a huge fan -- see this post from when he left CMS, Why Berwick Matters.
On a lighter note, I had the chance to ask him what it is like to get knighted by the Queen of England -- this happened because of IHI's quality improvement consulting with the British National Health Service (NHS). Here's what he told me:
"They called, the Consulate General in Boston. They don't just 'knight' you. They ask you -- here's how it goes. 'Dr. Berwick, if the Queen were to offer you a knighthood, would you accept it?' Because they want to kind of clear the way, and it could be insulting. So I said, 'Yes I would.' So that was the beginning. And for non-British citizens the actual procedure is not done by the Queen, it's done by the Ambassador of the country you're in. So I went to the British embassy in DC and there's a signed parchment thing and a seal, and these guys in uniforms walk out and hand it to you.
"And then you get the 'Knight Manual' -- there's a manual. And I don't remember what's on the first page, but at one place it says: 'Privileges of Knighthood.' One is: If you commit a capital crime, unlike commoners who are always hanged, you can get to choose. You can be hanged or beheaded.
"Actually it was an amazing experience, and I feel so grateful for it and so honored by it. And I know what happened -- IHI got invited to go to the U.K. in the late '90s to try and change care there, and it was a whole team. And it was a little embarrassing because there were about ten people who worked in the U.K. in that decade helping to make the changes."
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