“Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right.” – Oprah Winfrey

“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something….. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life. Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.”
– Neil Gaiman

The new year is always an opportunity for starting fresh and celebrating a new beginning. It can mean reflecting on successes as well as rough spots so that we learn and improve for the future – a new opportunity “to get it right”, as Oprah Winfrey said. And though we never want to make mistakes in our patient care work, as an academic enterprise we do want to stretch in bold new directions, take risks, and try the untested – this is what research, education and even business are all about. Author Neil Gaiman's new year's advice therefore resonates with me, too.

Here are some happenings in our department that I'm excited about for the new year – a few of many opportunities to stretch in new directions, make improvements, and once again try to get it even more right this coming year:

  • Projects that improve the diagnostic process, funded by the Collaborative for Diagnostic Innovation: As mentioned in my October blog, I'm very excited that our department has created and is leading this new collaborative program. Pathology and lab medicine is a discipline that has traditionally been at the center of the diagnostic process, so it's important that we actively work to maintain and grow our pivotal and central role. Our program launched with a multi-disciplinary seed grant program funded with $420,000 from a philanthropic gift plus contributions from many UC Davis units. Thirty-nine applications are currently under review; awards will be announced in late January. Many applications include members of our department, as well as new tests that could potentially influence what we do in our clinical laboratories, or that explore new and better approaches to using tests currently offered. In the new year, Collaborative members and I will be working to develop new facets to the program that address education around the diagnostic process, career development programs for those interested in focusing in diagnostic medicine, in addition to identifying new funding sources to continue seed grants for diagnostic innovation.
  • Launching our new multi-disciplinary Clinical Informatics Fellowship program: Our application for accreditation was submitted to the ACGME in the fall and will be reviewed in mid-January – we hope to hear soon afterward that we are approved. This new fellowship program re-boots our dormant informatics fellowship program founded by former chair Bob Cardiff in the 1990s. Our fellowship will be exceptional since it leverages curriculum in our well-known health informatics masters' program, includes UC Davis Health's Chief Medical Information Officer Jeff Wajda as our program director, involvestalented faculty within our department plus those in several other medical specialties and disciplines, and incorporates applied learning projects. We plan to begin recruitment of a fellow soon, so spread the word!
  • National Pathology Quality Registry (NPQR): Speaking of informatics, we have been invited to participate as a beta-site for the American Society of Clinical Pathology (ASCP)'s new NPQR program. This program integrates with our new Beaker LIS and will improve our ability to assess analytical and diagnostic accuracy, monitor appropriate test utilization, improve pre-analytical processes, optimize turnaround time and critical value reporting, and establish best practices through national and peer group comparisons. I met with the NPQR development team at the ASCP's annual meeting in the fall, and I was impressed with the program. There has been similar enthusiasm in subsequent conversations with ASCP from our own lab quality team as well as Chief Quality Officer Gregory Maynard. Our participation should also provide new opportunities for research in clinical quality. We are working on a contract with ASCP, and hope to launch this program early in 2018. You can learn more about NPQR at https://www.ascp.org/content/get-involved/institute-of-science-technology-policy/npqr
  • “Go-live” for Beaker in Anatomic Pathology (AP): The Beaker “go-live” in the clinical labs this summer was a remarkable success – a tough act to follow for AP, but we are keeping our fingers crossed! Other academic medical centers have shared that the AP module can have considerable challenges, but our AP and LIS team has spent considerable effort in preparation, and we have good “lessons-learned” from the summer go-live, so we should be as well-positioned as possible. Our current AP lab information system is quite out of date, so Epic Beaker should allow us to stretch in new directions and integrate with other Beaker modules to improve reporting, do better quality assurance, and hopefully create more efficiencies that improve our workflow, our work lives, and better serve our patients.
  • New faculty and staff recruitments: Adding new talent is always key to keeping our department fresh, vibrant, and at the leading edge, and I'm so pleased that we continue to attract outstanding applicants to our open positions. We have been recruiting for two positions in anatomic pathology, and one has already been filled – gynecologic pathologist Anthony Karnezis MD PhD will be joining us this spring. Currently, Dr. Karnezis is a researcher at the University of British Columbia, and comes highly recommended from his colleagues there as well as mentors from UCSF and elsewhere. Our search for a neuropathologist is well underway, and two excellent finalist candidates will be returning for second visits soon. Our Stowell Chair in Experimental Pathology/Director of Center for Comparative Medicine has also attracted many excellent candidates; the committee will be reviewing applications in January to identify those to interview. Tina Cox, our hospital lab director, is also working hard to fill open technical position throughout our clinical lab. AP has many open positions which led to considerable challenges over the holidays. Since the available pool for AP is very small and few temporary staff are available, this area is a high priority. We are working with Human Resources to speed recruitments and on-boarding, and to develop a per diem pool so that we are better prepared for staffing issues in the next year.
  • Celebrating our 50th year anniversary as an academic department of the UC Davis School of Medicine: Our department and school will be celebrating our 50 year anniversary this year. Since Robert Stowell was our first department chair, we are planning a special celebration at our annual Stowell Lectureship on May 24, 2018. Abul Abbas, the long-standing chair at UCSF, will be our speaker, and we have invited all of the living department chairs to join us for a panel discussion and to meet with faculty and residents. We are also creating a museum-type history display in the PATH Building foyer. Dr. Stowell's son donated his father's Gold-headed Cane Award, the highest award in our specialty, and other memorabilia which inspired the creation of a history display. I've invited all of the department chairs to donate something to the case – and if you have any bit of department history that you think would be appropriate, please let me know!
  • Our new Vice Chancellor for Human Health Sciences: Lastly, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that a new leader for UC Davis Health is under recruitment, and should be in place by the summer – or maybe earlier! A new leader means new vision, new energy and new ideas – especially important and inspiring for our 50th anniversary as a medical school and academic health system.

I'm sure all of you have many things to be excited about and look forward to in 2018 – feel free to share in the comment section of this blog. I hope you will use the new year as your own opportunity to grow in new directions, take risks to learn something new or be creative, and make this year an even better one than the year before. I wish you all a very happy healthy new year!