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COMP Alumnus Scott Ellner named inaugural Roger Schenke Award winner

by Rodney Tanaka

May 5, 2015

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The American Association for Physician Leadership® has announced Western University of Health Sciences’ College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific (COMP) alumnus Scott Ellner, DO ‘99, MPH, MHCM, FACS, as the inaugural winner of the Roger Schenke Award.

The association presented the award at its annual meeting, April 18, in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Ellner, president of the Saint Francis Medical Group, vice chairman of the department of surgery and director of surgical quality at Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford, Connecticut, was instrumental in the founding of the Connecticut Surgical Quality Collaborative. The coalition of 22 Connecticut hospitals and three state medical groups work together to improve patient safety by training perioperative teams to reduce error and improve care.

As founder of the Saint Francis Surgical Quality Task Force, Ellner has implemented training for all perioperative teams and instituted evidence-based protocols to virtually eliminate risk of human error in the operating rooms at St. Francis.

“At some level, all physicians can be considered as leaders. Some do even more. Recognizing an individual such as Scott Ellner is a privilege for our association,” said president and CEO Peter Angood, MD, FRCS(C), FACS, MCCM. “Innovation with education of physician leaders is a critical component for the ongoing successes of health care.”

Training that Ellner initiated at St. Francis is the basis for the collaborative’s program. Using data and analysis from several years of operating room safety questionnaires and surveys on patient safety culture, training sessions for multidisciplinary teams were developed that produced better intra-team and inter-team communication. Teams are empowered to “stop the line” whenever a potential threat to patient safety is encountered.

Ellner’s expressed goal when he began the initiative in 2010 was to eliminate “never events” in surgery and establish a new culture of patient safety in operating rooms statewide, eventually including all 28 hospitals. Ultimately, his goal is for the collaborative to serve as a model coalition that can be replicated within any state’s health care community.

Judges were impressed with the scope and breadth of the Connecticut program and Ellner’s ongoing commitment to expand training that can reduce perioperative error and improve health outcomes.

The Roger Schenke Award, created in 2014 for the 40th anniversary of the association, honors individual vision, commitment and innovation in creating education and training programs to improve patient safety and enhance physician leadership. It is named for Roger Schenke, who in 1975 founded the organization that has become the American Association for Physician Leadership.

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