Letters to the business editor
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While I applaud the ingenuity of the University of Pittsburgh Law School profiled in the Dec. 5, 2011, " Pitt Mock Trial Pits Those Studying Law Against Those Studying Medicine ," more value could be found in preventing medical errors in the first place.
For 12 years now, the Pittsburgh Regional Health Initiative has been teaching graduate students in the health professions to deliver high-quality care more safely. We apply basic Lean management principles to prevent errors and produce highly reliable care. For instance, these Lean principles have been used to eliminate health-care associated infections, falls in long-term-care facilities and wrong-site surgeries. We do this because most basic systems-engineering principles, taught to nearly every undergraduate business major, are left out of the curriculum and residencies for health care.
More and more students in graduate health-care professional programs, recognizing a changing policy and practice environment, want instruction on how to improve the system. Since 2001, the Jewish Healthcare Foundation has hosted two seminar programs on system reform and patient safety for graduate students. This year, nearly three applicants applied for each available spot. These students are seeking supplementary education for which there is no stipend and no academic credit.
So, my vote is for more classroom instruction and residency practice in quality improvement and safety than in defending malpractice suits.
KAREN WOLK FEINSTEIN
President and CEO
Pittsburgh Regional Health Initiative Jewish Healthcare Foundation
In response to the Dec. 8. story, " Study Says Women Lag in U.S. STEM Degrees ," the demands of the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields necessitate a rigorous college curriculum, which, despite long-held practices, can coexist with student engagement and excitement. Today, universities, nonprofits and even businesses collaborate to create innovative new STEM classroom approaches, preparing students for this century's challenges while appealing to a talent pool that is more diverse than ever.
Pittsburgh's own Carnegie Mellon University has been a leader in this, choosing to rebuild its electrical and computer engineering curriculum in the 1990s to expose students to exciting engineering projects early in their collegiate career, a key component of increasing retention.
Bayer's survey results magnify the importance of expanding similar out-of-the-box approaches, an effort we at the American Society for Engineering Education encourage through publications and workshops on engineering education innovations and learning opportunities for educators. We also encourage high school students considering STEM majors to ask careful questions about first-year classes and retention numbers when visiting colleges, and consider programs that focus not on "weeding out" but on helping all students to succeed.
DON P. GIDDENS
The American Society for Engineering Education
We appreciate " Docs: Highmark, UPMC Should Smooth Transition ," Nov. 29, calling attention to the recent position statement of the Allegheny County Medical Society concerning the continuing contractual impasse between Highmark and UPMC. The Society continues to encourage the parties to return to negotiations and try to reach a contract. Despite their business differences, compromise can make possible an agreement that meets the business needs of both while continuing to provide broad access to patients. Ultimately, we feel these two valuable, nonprofit, community assets should come together for the benefit of patients and community, using an outside facilitator if necessary.
If they are not able to reach agreement, there should be a transition plan to assure patients of continued access and coverage under the terms of their existing coverage. There are also public policy issues that could be considered by the Legislature and regulatory agencies to support transparency and competitive markets for insurance and health services. The complete ACMS statement on these issue is available on the website at acms.org or by calling the ACMS office at 412-321-5030.
LEO R. McCAFFERTY, M.D.
President, Allegheny County Medical Society
I read the Dec. 11 Heard on the Street column " Insider Trading by Congress May Go Out Kicking and Screaming " with total outrage. After the "60 Minutes" report on insider trading going on with both House and Senate members, two House Democrats submitted a bill (The STOCK act) to prohibit members of Congress and federal employees from making investment decision based on nonpublic information obtained during their job.
But House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., again thumbed his nose at the common everyday American citizen by not allowing it to come up for a vote, even though it had overwhelming support. So it will be business as usual for him and his cronies. According to the head of the SEC it is already a crime without the new legislation but not one sitting Congress member has ever been brought up on charges. Why?
I think the only people with a lower approval rating than Congress are Jerry Sandusky and Charles Manson. We, the voters, need to remember these things at election time along with who stood up for the working class and who cast their votes in Congress for the privileged few. Hopefully a lot of congressmen will be in the unemployment line come next November.
First Published December 17, 2011 12:00 am