Committed to their patients

Committed to their patients

By Courtney Steinberg
The I Promise initiative is focused on improving the patient experience at UF&Shands. For more information about I Promise, visit
In October, the I Promise Physician Leadership Team held its first forum, focusing on physician-patient communication.

Frederick Southwick, M.D., a professor of medicine in the UF College of Medicine and Shands at UF project manager for new quality and safety programs, formed the team about four months ago as part of the UF&Shands I Promise initiative. In doing so, he hopes to encourage more collaboration and communication among physicians.

“It’s a problem when patients receive different descriptions of what’s going to happen,” Southwick said. “Patients want to know the staff is organized and that someone is in control.”

The first forum included more than 60 doctors, nurses, social workers, administrators, patients and a clergy member who contributed their thoughts and ideas.

Lisa Auerbach, a patient with a chronic illness, joined the team because she’s seen firsthand how communication problems can affect patients. Auerbach spoke at the forum and offered a patient’s perspective on the importance of physicians taking the time to listen to their patients.

“It was great that so many physicians showed up at the first forum,” she said. “That means it’s a priority for them and that they’re interested in talking and collaborating with other physicians in other areas.”

Richard Petrik, M.D, an assistant professor of emergency medicine in the UF College of Medicine and a member of the team, also spoke at the forum about his experiences as a patient.

“I realized some of the tiny things that forced me to think about what I would do differently if I were in the shoes of the physician,” Petrik said. “Simply bringing a patient ice chips or stepping in to say hello makes all the difference.”

Members of the group hope at least 100 people attend the I Promise Physician Leadership Team’s next forum on doctor-nurse communication in early to mid-January. The team also wants to hold a doctor-doctor communication forum.

“I think it’s infectious,” Petrik said. “Once we start doing something, we’re being examples in our department.”