Patients Come First – Dr. M. Norman Oliver

This episode of the Patients Come First podcast features an interview with Virginia State Health Commissioner Dr. M. Norman Oliver about his focus on population health, a mid-career decision to attend medical school in his 40s, his work treating Native people in a small Alaskan village, his role with the Commonwealth, and much more. Send questions, comments, or feedback to pcfpodcast@vhha.com or contact us on Twitter (www.twitter.com/virginiahha) using the hashtag #PatientsComeFirst.

Hajj in Saudi Arabia

The annual Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, is among the largest mass gatherings in the world. In 2018, Hajj will take place from approximately August 19-24, 2018.

Because of the crowds, mass gatherings such as Hajj are associated with unique health risks. Before you go, you should visit a travel health specialist for advice, make sure you are up to date on all routine and recommended vaccines, and learn about other health and safety issues that could affect you during your trip.

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is one disease of special concern because it can cause severe respiratory disease and it has been found in Saudi Arabia and nearby countries. If you develop flu-like symptoms like fever, cough, and shortness of breath within 14 days after traveling, contact your doctor and mention your recent travel. Because the virus that causes MERS can spread by close contact, please call your healthcare provider before going to a doctor’s office, an urgent care facility or the emergency room so that they can make special arrangements to prevent the spread of germs to others. More information on MERS is available.

 

Weekly Message – August 6, 2018

Dear Colleagues

As I mentioned last week, the Deputy Commissioners, the Operations Directors, John Ringer (our Director of Strategic Planning), and myself recently held a leadership retreat. Our retreat focused on the functioning of the leadership team and working toward greater clarity on the direction of the agency.

As State Health Commissioner, I depend upon the team of Deputy Commissioners and Operations Directors. This team discusses the weekly activity of the agency, the strategic and programmatic direction of VDH, and fulfills a fiduciary responsibility as the financial stewards of the agency. I need their input, their counsel, and their decision-making authority to ensure the smooth functioning and well-being of VDH. I have asked that we establish a “Commissioner’s Leadership Team,” comprising the Deputy Commissioners and the Operations Directors. This Commissioner’s Leadership Team will take the place of the “Deputy Leadership Team.”

I noted last week, “Cohesive, behaviorally unified teams trust one another. They engage in unfiltered conflict and debate around ideas. They commit to decisions and action plans. They hold one another accountable to delivering against those plans. They focus on achieving results for the team. (See Patrick Lencioni’s The Five Dysfunctions of a Team for a brilliant depiction of what constitutes a good team.) Here’s a cartoon, depicting the five dysfunctions and the reasons teams need to overcome them:

Inattention to results. Focus on delivering measurable results: collective and individual, accountability, feedback. Avoidance of accountability. To take accountability require prior commitment: 100% buy-in. Lack of Commitment. Commitment follows health conflict: hear all  disagreedecisionbuy-inone voice. Feat of conflict. Health conflict implies candid debate: trust to speak opinion without fear of retribution. Absence of Trust. Building Trust requires vulnerability: courage to risk.

Trust is a foundational behavior of well-functioning teams. As I explained last week, we did some work on further building trust among the senior leadership team. One of the tools that we used for this work was to develop a “Team Covenant” that put into written form the behaviors needed to ensure a highly reliable, well-functioning team. Here’s the covenant of the Commissioner’s Leadership Team:

VDH Commissioner’s Leadership Team Covenant

We will:

  1.  Come to CLT not as advocates for our own shops, but with VDH’s strategic goals foremost in mind.
  2. Assume positive intention and full trust.
  3. Speak up and share divergent views.
  4. Encourage constructive dissent.
  5. Pledge that, once we have made a decision, we will be unified and committed to the decision’s success.
  6. Communicate with respect and professionalism.
  7. We will always ensure we are very clear about “who, what, when” and assign ownership for follow up when we make a decision or decide to decide later.
  8. Innovate and challenge the status quo.
  9. Be clear on who has the appropriate decision rights.
  10. Have the courage to acknowledge when we fall short or break this Covenant, and will work with our Team members to get back in Covenant.

If you catch one of the deputies, an Ops Director, or myself acting in accordance with our covenant, let us know. Reinforce that behavior! Of course, we’re human beings; so, if you notice us breaking our covenant, give us a little nudge to help us get back on track. I hope other leadership teams in the agency will emulate us and develop covenants of their own. If we all start behaving in congruence with our values, VDH can go from being a good organization to a truly great one.

Have a great week!

Norm

(Pronouns: he, his, him)

 

Weekly Message July 30, 2018

Dear Colleagues:

The Deputy Leadership Team (DLT), Operations Directors, and John Ringer (our Director of Strategic Planning), met in a retreat on July 27 and 28. The focus of this day-and-a-half-long leadership retreat was to enhance the functioning of the team and to work toward greater clarity on the direction of the agency. Over the next several weeks, I’ll discuss the various issues we grappled with at the retreat and the results of that work.

Today, I’d like to tell you all that we spent a good deal of time exploring the characteristics of highly engaged and well-functioning teams. Cohesive, behaviorally unified teams trust one another. They engage in unfiltered conflict and debate around ideas. They commit to decisions and action plans. They hold one another accountable to delivering against those plans. They focus on achieving results for the team. (See Patrick Lencioni’s The Five Dysfunctions of a Team for a brilliant depiction of what constitutes a good team.)

Trust is a foundational behavior of well-functioning teams. At the retreat, we did some work on further building trust among the DLT members and Ops Directors. Of course, building trust in any team occurs over time through shared experiences, multiple instances of proven follow-through, and developing an in-depth understanding of the unique attributes of each team member. However, we used the retreat as a way to accelerate that process through some focused work. We learned a lot about each other’s personal histories. We identified the unique strengths we each bring to the team, as well as the things we each struggle with in advancing the work of the team. We also revisited the personality profile we each completed as part of the “Leadership Essentials” course that many of you have taken, as well. Understanding the behavioral preferences and personality styles of team members helps to build trust and team cohesion.

One of the lessons we reaffirmed in our retreat is the importance of aligning our behavior with the core values of the organization. The core values of VDH are accountability, communication, diversity, equity, excellence, integrity, respect, and stewardship. You can find these values listed and expanded upon in the VDH Code of Ethics, which I encourage you all to read. In a future “Weekly Message,” I’ll talk about some steps we took at the retreat to help us behave in a manner that is congruent with these values.

Meanwhile, the VDH senior leadership team is refreshed, rejuvenated, and re-energized following our retreat. We return to the central office hopeful about our ability to help you all be successful in your work and in the ability of VDH to play a central role in improving the health and well-being of the Commonwealth.

 

Have a great week!

Norm

(Pronouns: he, his, him)

Giant Hogweed Detected in Virginia

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) has confirmed the presence of Giant hogweed, Heracleum mantegazzianum, in Clarke County. The Giant hogweed was planted at the site by a previous homeowner for ornamental purposes. VDACS employees are working with the homeowner in an effort to eradicate the weed from the Clarke County site. Read more

Be Food Safe This Summer

Summer has begun, which means that many people in Virginia will be taking out their grills and spending more time outdoors. Follow these tips for your cookout for safe and enjoyable outdoor cooking all summer long!

Bringing perishable or raw foods to a picnic or cookout?

Bacteria grows faster in warm temperatures. Be sure that these foods don’t spend more than:

  • one hour sitting out when the temperature is above 90˚F or
  • two hours when temperatures are below 90˚F.

Use an insulated cooler to help keep foods colds. Foods that need to be kept cold include:

  • raw meat, poultry, and seafood;
  • deli and luncheon meats or sandwiches;
  • summer salads (tuna, chicken, egg, pasta, or seafood);
  • cut up fruit and vegetables; and perishable dairy products.

To help keep your food cooler for longer:

  • keep your cooler full,
  • place the cooler in the shade, and
  • avoid opening the cooler.

Cooking on a grill?

Keep your food safe by remembering these four steps: clean, separate, cook, and chill.

  • Clean: Start with clean surfaces and clean hands.
  • Separate: Keep raw meat and poultry separate from your veggies. Keep cooked foods away to avoid potential cross-contamination.
  • Cook: Your food thermometer is your grill’s most important tool! Check the temperature of your meats, poultry, seafood, and other cooked foods before taking them off the grill to make sure they have reached a safe internal temperature.
  • Chill: Bacteria grow most rapidly in the temperature “danger zone,” between 40°F and 140°F. It’s essential to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Hot foods can be kept on the grill and cold foods can always be chilled with packs of ice or in a cooler.

Also, be sure to check out My Meal Detective for short videos on all four of these steps and learn how to prevent foodborne illness.

For more information on general and summer food safety, visit the VDH Food Safety page and:

FDA Takes Action Against the Use of OTC Benzocaine Teething Products Due to Serious Safety Risk, Lack of Benefit

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning that over-the-counter (OTC) oral drug products containing benzocaine should not be used to treat infants and children younger than 2 years. We are also warning that benzocaine oral drug products should only be used in adults and children 2 years and older if they contain certain warnings on the drug label. These products carry serious risks and provide little to no benefits for treating oral pain, including sore gums in infants due to teething. Benzocaine, a local anesthetic, can cause a condition in which the amount of oxygen carried through the blood is greatly reduced. This condition, called methemoglobinemia, can be life-threatening and result in death. Read More

May is Better Hearing & Speech Month!

communication for all better hearing & speech month

Communication disorders are among the most common disabilities in children nationwide, with 11% of children ages 3–6 having a speech, language, voice, or swallowing disorder—and almost 15% of school-age children experiencing some degree of hearing loss. Timely intervention is important, as untreated speech/language and hearing disorders can lead to problems with reading and writing, academic success, social interactions, behavioral problems, and more. These disorders are highly treatable and, in some cases, can be reversed or even prevented. The Virginia Early Hearing Detection and Intervention program (EHDI) encourages families to learn the early signs of hearing loss and seek follow up testing as early as possible for their child. Please join the VA EHDI program in raising awareness for better hearing and speech development for children during the entire month of May!

Rose Acre Farms Recalls Shell Eggs Due to Possible Health Risk

Rose Acre Farms of Seymour, Indiana is voluntarily recalling 206,749,248 eggs because they have the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella Braenderup, an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy individuals infected with SalmonellaBraenderup can experience fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In rare circumstances, infection with Salmonella Braenderup can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections (i.e., infected aneurysms), endocarditis and arthritis.

The eggs were distributed from the farm in Hyde County, North Carolina and reached consumers in the following states: Colorado, Florida, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia through retail stores and restaurants via direct delivery.

Read more about the recall.