PHM 2021: Leading through adversity


PHM 2021 session

Leading through adversity


Ilan Alhadeff, MD, MBA, SFHM, CLHM

Session summary

As the VP of hospitalist services and a practicing hospitalist in Boca Raton, Fla., Dr. Alhadeff shared an emotional journey where the impact of lives lost has led to organizational innovation and advocacy. He started this journey on the date of the Parkland High School shooting, Feb. 14, 2018. On this day, he lost his 14 year-old daughter Alyssa and described subsequent emotions of anger, sadness, hopelessness, and feeling the pressure to be the protector of his family. Despite receiving an outpouring of support through memorials, texts, letters, and social media posts, he was immersed in “survival mode.” He likens this to the experience many of us may be having during the pandemic. He described caring for patients with limited empathy and the impact this likely had on patient care. During this challenging time, the strongest supports became those that stated they couldn’t imagine how this event could have impacted Dr. Alhadeff’s life but offered support in any way needed – true empathic communication.

Dr. Erin King, associate program director, University of Minnesota Pediatric Residency Program

Dr. Erin E. King

“It ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.” – Rocky Balboa (2006)

Despite the above, he and his wife founded Make Our Schools Safe (MOSS), a student-forward organization that promotes a culture of safety where all involved are counseled, “If you see something, say something.” Students are encouraged to use social media as an anonymous reporting tool. Likewise, this organization supports efforts for silent safety alerts in schools and fencing around schools to allow for 1-point entry. Lessons Dr. Alhadeff learned that might impact any pediatric hospitalist include the knowledge that mental health concerns aren’t going away; for example, after a school shooting any student affected should be provided counseling services as needed, the need to prevent triggering events, and turning grief into action can help.

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” – Albert Einstein (1930)

Dr. Alhadeff then described the process of “moving on” for him and his family. For his children, this initially meant “busying” their lives. They then gradually eased into therapy, and ultimately adopted a support dog. He experienced recurrent loss with his father passing away in March 2019, and he persevered in legislative advocacy in New Jersey and Florida and personal/professional development with work toward his MBA degree. Through this work, he collaborated with many legislators and two presidents. He describes resiliency as the ability to bounce back from adversity, with components including self-awareness, mindfulness, self-care, positive relationships, and purpose. While many of us have not had the great personal losses and challenge experienced by Dr. Alhadeff, we all are experiencing an once-in-a-lifetime transformation of health care with political and social interference. It is up to each of us to determine our role and how we can use our influence for positive change.

As noted by Dr. Alhadeff, “We are not all in the same boat. We ARE in the same storm.”

Key takeaways

  • How PHM can promote MOSS: Allow children to be part of the work to keep schools safe. Advocate for local MOSS chapters. Support legislative advocacy for school safety.
  • Despite adversity, we have the ability to demonstrate resilience. We do so through development of self-awareness, mindfulness, engagement in self-care, nurturing positive relationships, and continuing to pursue our greater purpose.

Dr. King is a pediatric hospitalist at Children’s MN and the director of medical education, an associate program director for the Pediatrics Residency program at the University of Minnesota. She received her medical degree from Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine and completed pediatric residency and chief residency at the University of Minnesota.

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