Educating Future Healthcare Leaders: ICN Brings the Patient Voice

Last summer, Imagine Citizens Network (ICN) was invited to participate in the new transdisciplinary Precision Health program at the Cumming School of Medicine (University of Calgary) which brings together future healthcare leaders, entrepreneurs, and educators to improve patient care. Precision health is a new and innovative approach to healthcare delivery. It’s tailored to a patient’s genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors and, as the name implies, it is aimed at keeping people healthy by personalizing the prevention and treatment of individuals “precisely”.

The ICN team was invited to the Foundations Block Week of the Precision Health program where all the streams – Quality and Patient Safety Leadership, Innovation and  Entrepreneurship, Health Professions Education Leadership and Precision Medicine come together to kick start their programs. Last year we presented on Person-centred Care and shared patient stories of lived experience. 

This year, we were again invited to participate. We presented on Person-centred Care by Co-Creating Healthcare and shared our views on why the perspectives of those with lived experience is critical in healthcare, including individual encounters, planning, policy, research and evaluation. We incorporated our recently produced digital stories using them in conversation with students around whether patient collaboration happened or how it could have been improved upon.

Precision health is built around the concept of co-production of care, which empowers the patient and healthcare provider to decide collaboratively how best to meet a patient’s needs. Leaders in precision health are also challenged to think entrepreneurially – to notice the patients’ problems and develop viable and innovative solutions that can be implemented within public healthcare systems, as well as within new ventures, social enterprises, non-profit firms, or private companies.

Dr. Ward Flemons, a professor of medicine at Cumming School of Medicine and one of the founders of ICN, welcomed two ICN members, Kelly Mendes and Judy Birdsell, to participate in the nine-week certificate program for the Quality & Safety Leadership stream which he leads.

“We really shouldn’t be educating our future healthcare professionals without having the patients’ perspective,” says Dr. Flemons. “The presence of ICN and just their involvement really energizes the students.  They saw so much relevance to this!”

“Judy and I both felt that our involvement with the students reminded them to look at the issues or concerns through all lenses, including the patient’s and family’s,” says Kelly.

According to Judy, “I believe the presence of ICN in these streams is crucial going forward to ensure there is accountability to embed the concept of co-creation of healthcare with these learners in their schoolwork and in their professions.”

Jessica Cromwell, a student of this program and registered nurse says, “the population in general is really quite motivated to start having their say when it comes to the healthcare that they receive. They want to move away from paternalistic healthcare where you go to the doctor, do what they say and don’t ask questions.”

Jessica, also now a volunteer with ICN adds, “ICN really aligned with my values of trying to advocate for people to have more of a say in their health decisions and in their healthcare in general. The more we can empower communities to be able to step up and have a voice in their healthcare, the more pressure there will be on the system to actually start listening to people about what they want and what’s important to them.”

ICN is currently exploring where to take our partnership with the Precision Health program in the future.  As therapies and approaches become more individualized, we will see changes in the direction that health and medicine is taking. There’s going to be an important role for patients and the public to pay attention to these changes and to be involved in the discussion.

If you are interested in learning more and possibly volunteering with ICN in the Precision Health program, please sign up on our website. We are anticipating there may be opportunities to be involved in any of the four Precision Health streams mentioned above.  We welcome people with diverse ethnic and occupational backgrounds – you don’t need to be in healthcare – you just need to have had experience interacting with our healthcare system.

October 2022

Credit: Yan Krukov