Sammies finalists helping to prevent medical errors

Wednesday - 6/13/2012, 9:04am EDT

Heidi King, director of the Patient Safety Solutions for Tricare Management, Defense Department

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Heidi King has saved thousand of lives, says her boss at the Defense Department. But she isn't a doctor or a police officer or a firefighter.

King is the director of the Patient Safety Solutions for Tricare Management at DoD. And she, along with Dr. James Battles (both pictured) at the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality at Health and Human Services, has revolutionized the way the medical personnel behave in hospitals.

Together, they started TeamSTEPPS, a program that seeks to end medical errors like prescription mistakes, hospital-inquired infections and surgical missteps.

King and Battles are finalists for a Service to America Medal or Sammies.

King told The Federal Drive with Tom Temin and Emily Kopp about the problem she and Battles saw that prompted them to launch TeamSTEPPS and how the biggest change was cultural and not medical.


Federal News Radio asked the Sammies finalists to tell us a bit about themselves. Here are King's responses:

What three words best describe your leadership philosophy?

Inspire, Innovate and Impact.

What's the best piece of advice (or words of wisdom) you've ever received and who gave it to you?

One of my favorite quotes, by John Quincy Adams is, "If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader."

Who is your biggest role model and why?

While my parents molded my values and life growing up, my Peace Corps experience shaped who I have become. Early on, Dr. Jocelyn Hicks mentored me and spoke the hard truth. She believed in me, encouraged me, and challenged me as a young professional. Now reflecting upon her leadership, this unlocked my potential.

Although I was well-positioned to step into a more senior role, Dr. Hicks cheered me on when I decided to follow my heart for service and leave the non-profit health care sector to work in the federal government.

What's the biggest challenge you've had to overcome (personally or professionally) and how did you overcome it?

As a single mom and career woman, I struggled to be everything to my family at home and at work, until a Fourth of July that I'll never forget when fireworks sparked and ignited a change within me. Being Superwoman was not what it is built up to be. Getting back to a ‘make a difference' mindset; my view on life shifted and my journey continues to transform how I am at home, on the job, and in my community!

What's the last thing you read and what's next on your reading list?

I recently finished a book on inside-out coaching, transforming the way to approach improving my performance and also the way to approach helping others improve theirs. It's called, "You ALREADY Know How to Be GREAT" by Alan Fine. As well, I just gave a book review in my executive coaching class on Marshall Goldsmith's best-seller, "What Got You Here Won't Get You There," about how successful people become even more successful.

My next read is "How Stella Saved the Farm" by Govindarajan and Trimble, which is a business parable about making innovation happen, moving from idea to impact.

Since Jim Battles [Service to America Co-Finalist] and I are leading the National Implementation of TeamSTEPPS conference next week with over 500 attendees, these best practices will come in handy. In facilitating a full day workshop on ‘Building Innovation into the Military Health System,' I'll take what I learn and weave it in while shepherding my vision, then coach DoD health care teams on how to move to action. By fostering a culture of safety through innovation, high- reliability teams will move closer to zero preventable harm, saving more lives! TeamSTEPPS infuses innovation into the DNA of healthcare delivery systems across America. Books like these inspire me to reshape approaches on better ways to ‘make it happen and make it stick.' Talent is the ‘treasure' of the Federal workforce. We, as leaders, simply need to move out of the way and empower them to innovate.

What's your favorite bureaucratic phrase?

Culture eats strategy for lunch!

Meet the rest of 2012 Sammies finalists.