ColumbiaDoctors Presents Honors for Outstanding Commitment to Patient Safety

James Savage, left, and Steven Spitalnik
James Savage, left, and Steven Spitalnik

ColumbiaDoctors honored two members of the Columbia University Irving Medical Center (CUIMC) community last week during an annual recognition luncheon at the Faculty Club.

The luncheon was held to mark National Patient Safety Awareness Week, which was observed March 10-16. The focus of this year’s observance was improving safety in the ambulatory setting. The honorees were James Savage, director of ambulatory operations in the Department of Pediatrics, and Steven Spitalnik, MD, director of clinical laboratories and executive vice chair of the Department of Pathology & Cell Biology at the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons.

Savage received the Rising Star/Unsung Hero award, which recognizes a patient care team member whose efforts encourage others to adopt a culture of safety and promote a just culture that improves the work of team members. 

“Most of us ended up in health care because we feel it is a great reward to help people and to be of service to people. For me, I can think of few greater callings,” Savage said. “Part of our responsibility is to ensure that our patients’ and their families’ needs are being met and they are being seen in a safe environment. Together with the wonderful team of people I am a part of in pediatrics, that is what we try to do each day. We look to try to provide an environment that is both welcoming and safe for patients, families, and staff. Any success that I have had is a result of the great people on my team.”

Spitalnik, too, recognized his team—comprising more than 500 faculty members, administrators, medical technologists, phlebotomists, and office staff—in accepting the Leadership/Stewardship Award, which recognizes a patient care team member whose efforts foster a culture of safety in a manner that reflects the adoption of a just culture. He called the award “a tremendous honor” and a recognition of the entire team’s tireless efforts.

“Although much of our work is often performed far from the patient’s bedside, we consider the actual samples we receive—such as blood, urine, cerebrospinal fluid, and various types of effusions—to be our patients,” Spitalnik said. “As such, we receive more than 10,000 of these ‘patients’ every day and use multiple cutting-edge methods to produce almost 20,000,000 results every year.”

In addition to meeting federal, state, and nongovernmental requirements, CUIMC emphasizes a culture of “rigor, transparency, personal responsibility, and an obsessive focus on quality and patient safety. We believe that this approach will continue to guide us toward providing the best care possible for our highly complex patients. Thank you again for recognizing us in this way. It is greatly appreciated,” Spitalnik added.

To bring safety awareness to the attention of health care professionals and the public during National Patient Safety Awareness Week, the faculty practice also participated in a safety fair at Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital of New York and hosted a hands-on CPR and AED training session.

ColumbiaDoctors offers patients the expertise of more than 1,800 highly regarded physicians, surgeons, dentists, and nurses affiliated with CUIMC. All faculty providers are affiliated with NewYork-Presbyterian, ranked as one of the best hospitals in the nation and No. 1 in the New York area.