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Meet DoD PSP’s New Chief of Patient Safety

Image of the DoD Patient Safety Program (PSP) logo. Image of the Department of Defense (DoD) Patient Safety Program (PSP) logo.

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The Department of Defense Patient Safety Program (DoD PSP) recently expanded its leadership team with the addition of Dr. Daniel Ross. Ross has a background that includes a wide range of education and experiences including dentistry, oral surgery, emergency medicine, clinical professorships and prominent roles within the Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical system, the VA National Center for Patient Safety and most recently The Joint Commission.

“I believe that my diverse experience with various segments of our complex health care system – particularly my years at the front line, practicing clinical emergency medicine in and around Chicago – provides me with a unique perspective of patient safety concerns,” said Ross. “I don’t see things from a single lens and tend to take a broad view of patient safety.”

Picture of Department of Defense Patient Safety Program Chief Dr. Daniel Ross.Department of Defense Patient Safety
Program Chief Dr. Daniel Ross.

By embracing safety as a core value, Ross believes the Military Health System (MHS) can nurture a strong safety culture that promotes trust, values honesty, fosters learning and is capable of balancing individual and organizational accountabilities that meet the MHS’s strategic priorities such as the Quadruple Aim and Readiness in particular.

Ross considers himself a life-long learner and educator and sees the MHS in the near future as a learning organization; one component of a high reliability organization.

“‘Change yourself and change the world’ someone once said, that really resonates with me,” Ross quoted. “I know that many organizations are on a similar improvement journey: taking an honest look at themselves and then taking that knowledge and turning it into improvements. In a nutshell, this is the concept of what it means to be a learning organization – continual reflection and improvement.”

Ross has more than 25 years of experience in the health care environment as a clinician practicing in the field of health care delivery, and in particular the procedural environment. Along the way, he admits that not everything has been perfect.

“I’ve made mistakes. In fact, I once found myself as chief of quality at a community hospital, and there were unfortunately some very serious safety events that were happening – patients were being affected – and nobody, including myself really knew what to do,” Ross admits. “I realized that I had some gaps in my knowledge and skills. I knew I needed to do something to address it because, for me it’s always been about patients. Thinking back, this was the time that I started my own personal quality and safety journey. That journey continues today.”

The experiences throughout Ross’ career have ignited a passion for patient safety that extends to the MHS. “It’s both a responsibility and an honor to provide the best, safest care possible to our uniformed service men, women and retirees that have given so much of themselves to keep us and our country safe,” Ross said. “It’s the least we can do.”

During his most recent role at The Joint Commission, Ross had the opportunity to visit a few military treatment facilities (MTFs) and had a rare behind the scenes look at their processes, systems, culture and commitment to safe health care.

“I can tell you with certainty that compared to the broader community/ambulatory health care system, the Military Health System has much to be proud of. I see a tremendous opportunity for the MHS to set the bar for the rest of the country in delivering safe, effective and reliable health care. But there is still a long way for us to go if we are going to get to zero and to achieve high reliability,” Ross said.

As the chief of the DoD PSP, Ross has a list of overarching goals that align with the MHS high reliability journey, including:

  • Building and facilitating relationships
  • Raising awareness
  • Motivating and empowering others to improve patient safety, whether that be through influence, education, projects, policy or simply through reporting
  • Looking for synergies and collaboration to put momentum behind the MHS high reliability journey, which places safety at its very core

For those patient safety champions who work in an MTF and may be struggling with health care professionals in their facility to get on board with making patient safety a priority, Ross advises, “First thing is to persevere – press on. Former U.S. President Calvin Coolidge said, ‘persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.’ More specifically, you need to tell patient safety stories, arm yourself with reliable data, align with a clinical champion and make a business case if you can.”

“When you hit a wall, reach out to your patient safety colleagues for support, both within your Service branch and within the Patient Safety Program. We are a small community – family really – and we have so much more in common than we have differences,” Ross said.

“Also, it’s imperative that our physicians and executive leaders get actively engaged,” Ross explains. “Their actions help to set the tone towards achieving a just culture and we need them on board to be successful in our journey towards high reliability. Our system needs to hardwire behaviors if we are to achieve sustained success.”

“Above all, I encourage health care professionals and leaders to strive to act with integrity and intention; stay humble and always keep the interests of others in mind,” Ross said, “but press on; our mission and our patients depend upon it.” 

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