A champion for patient safety

By Jeff Carlton

Senator Jane NelsonSenator Jane Nelson, whose support for a culture change around safety in health care led to the creation of the Institute for Patient Safety at UNT Health Science Center, will receive an advocacy award on Thursday in Fort Worth.

The inaugural Patient Safety Advocacy Award will go to the senator from Flower Mound during the two-day Patient Safety Summit, an annual conference hosted by the Health Science Center that convenes national experts focused on improving quality in health care and reducing preventable harm.

The Institute opened earlier this year with broad-based community support from education, research and patient care entities across Fort Worth. Its founding partners, in addition to UNTHSC, are JPS Health NetworkCook Children’s Medical Center and Texas Christian University. The inaugural roster of Institute fellows includes scientists and physicians from each of those institutions, as well as the Health Science Center and the University of Texas at Arlington.

“I am grateful for this award – and this institute’s commitment to patient safety,” Nelson said. “With such an esteemed group of founding members, I know it will succeed in its mission to promote a culture of safety.”

The Institute for Patient Safety focuses on research, quality improvement projects and mentoring of students and faculty. It is funding small-scale testing of innovative new patient safety concepts through four annual seed grants worth up to $25,000 apiece. It also has awarded larger project grants, worth up to $100,000 each, for studies that can have an immediate impact on health care.

The Institute already is funding studies looking at the safety and effectiveness of opioids in patients with lower back pain, improving asthma care and enhancing how medical, pharmacy and nursing schools train their students on pain management topics.

Last year, the Texas Legislature invested $4 million in the Institute for Patient Safety, thanks to the advocacy of Senator Nelson. Since she took office in 1993, UNT Health Science Center has doubled in size and grown from one school to five, beginning with the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine and adding the Graduate School of Biomedical SciencesSchool of Public HealthSchool of Health Professions and College of Pharmacy. A sixth school, an MD school operated by the Health Science Center and TCU, is slated to open in 2019, pending accreditation.

“The growth of the Health Science Center is rooted in Senator Nelson’s advocacy for our university,” said Dr. Michael Williams, President of UNTHSC. “We’re going to make health care providers better and patients safer because of the investment Texas lawmakers have shown in us.”

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