The ACGME’s newest award, the Lewis Blackman Patient Safety Award, will be given for the first time in 2024, and annually thereafter to a resident or fellow in an ACGME-accredited residency or fellowship. The award honors the life of Lewis Blackman, a vibrant, intelligent young man who died November 6, 2000, when a series of post-operative issues following elective surgery were not recognized by the nurses and residents caring for him. The award will honor residents and fellows who have worked to implement strategies to improve the understanding of and show demonstrable improvement in patient safety in their Sponsoring Institution or residency/fellowship program.
Lewis Blackman’s mother, Helen Haskell, served as a Public Director on the ACGME Board from 2015-2021. A dedicated champion of safety improvements in clinical settings, Ms. Haskell has advocated for patient safety and engagement since the day her son died, a moment that permanently changed her life’s path. While she has since “spent [her] life in patient safety work,” she notes that it has not fully become incorporated into the medical curriculum as she and others in its advocacy would like. Many physicians, she says, are not fully aware of the full panoply of thinking that goes into patient safety.
“It’s human factors and technology, of course,” she says, “but it’s also communication, ethics, transparency, clinical reasoning, professionalism, and much more. In my opinion it touches on all that is best in health care.”
Haskell says she has met many residents doing amazing, meaningful work in patient safety, and that she is particularly pleased to be part of something that provides the opportunity to honor and highlight their efforts.
“I have always thought that residency and residents were central to the enterprise of teaching and improving patient safety. Residents are in the middle of everything that happens in health care. They come with fresh eyes and can see the flaws in the system to which others have become accustomed. And they have the motivation and the energy to bring about change,” she says.
Having the award named for her son captures the essence of Haskell’s dedication to improving patient safety, as well as ensures his memory is tied to education and innovation, which was deeply important to him during his life.
“My son Lewis was an insatiable student of life, of history, of biology, of science. We all spend our days learning in one way or another, but we always thought that Lewis was exceptionally intentional and wide-ranging in his interests,” she says. “It gives me a lot of comfort to have an award for education and young learners as part of his legacy.”
We asked Robert S. Juhasz, DO, MACOI, FACP, a member of the ACGME Board of Directors and Chair of the Board’s Awards Committee, to share more about the new award and what he hopes it will mean to the graduate medical education (GME) community. Dr. Juhasz serves as Cleveland Clinic Emeritus/Contract staff and clinical professor of medicine at Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, and also serves on the Board of Trustees, as vice chair, at Kansas City University. He's been on the ACGME Board of Directors since 2017 and has served as Awards Committee Chair since September 2020.
ACGME: It’s not common that the ACGME adds awards to its Award Program – can you talk a little about what’s involved in making the decision to add a new award?
Dr. Juhasz: Helen Haskell has been an ardent international advocate for patient safety, after the tragic loss of her son, Lewis Blackman, as a patient in hospital due to a patient safety incident. Ms. Haskell served on the ACGME Board for six years and this award was inspired by her service and dedication to improving the education of residents and fellows as part of health care teams in improving patient safety.
ACGME: The addition of this award makes two ACGME awards specifically for active residents and fellows (the David C. Leach Award and now the Lewis Blackman Patient Safety Award) – can you talk a little about what that means?
Dr. Juhasz: Any resident or fellow in an ACGME-accredited residency or fellowship program at the time of nomination may be nominated to acknowledge projects or programs that highlight the innovation and leadership of the nominee’s work to improve education with demonstrable outcomes in patient safety. Unfortunately, adverse events in the care of patients continue to occur (see The Safety of Inpatient Healthcare: DW Bates, MD, et al.; N Engl J Med 2023; 388:142-153; DOI: 10.1056/NEJMsa2206117). Recognizing the dedication of residents and fellows in leading programs with other health care workers to help prevent adverse events, will hopefully lead to a continued decrease in the frequency and severity of these events.
ACGME: What should individuals considering nominating a resident/fellow for the Blackman Award know, and what should they be sure to describe in their nomination to ensure consideration?
Dr. Juhasz: Residents or fellows nominated for the Lewis Blackman Patient Safety Award should be actively involved in leading a multidisciplinary team of caregivers in their institution by developing projects or programs to improve patient and caregiver communication and patient safety with demonstrable and measurable outcomes.
ACGME: Why is this new award important for the ACGME to give?
Dr. Juhasz: Unfortunately, patient safety events, often due to lack of communication amongst caregivers, continue to occur in hospitals and health care facilities, including facilities where residency and fellowship programs exist.
The ACGME’s Mission is “to improve health care and population health by assessing and enhancing the quality of resident and fellow physicians' education through advancements in accreditation and education.” This award recognizes excellence in advancing the education of residents, fellows, and other health care workers by improving communication and enhancing patient safety, especially through resident- and fellow-led initiatives. It is also a testament to the work of Helen Haskell and all who advocate to improve patient safety and communication through education.
The inaugural Lewis Blackman Patient Safety Award will be given at the 2024 ACGME Annual Educational Conference, scheduled to take place March 7-10, 2024 in Orlando, Florida. Nominations for this and all other ACGME Awards are currently being accepted. The deadline to submit a nomination is March 15, 2023. Learn more about and access nomination materials for the Lewis Blackman Patient Safety Award here. Learn more about the ACGME Awards program, and access details for each available award, here.