This Place of Honor

I stood on a stage in room filled with hope. A massive ballroom in Chicago filled with caregivers of all kinds from our country and others. They felt I had something to say…a perspective on healthcare delivery and the patient’s experience. Privileged to follow a life-long mentor and patient advocate, Don Berwick, M.D. I shared the story of this wonderful health system of ours and our own unique recipe for health reform…or health “transform.”

I spoke for an hour and 45 minutes to a group of idealistic, innovative, persuasive, patient-focused, extremely committed doctors, nurses, administrators, and policy-makers. My message was one of possibility and promise. One spawned from the voice of those who experience episodic or chronic disease and illness. A health system’s response to those whose days and nights are filled with uncertainty, anger, confusion, fear, and hope when their body fails them. Our country and the system of care is not aligned. So, we go our own way. We created a vision and a multi-year approach to changing EVERYTHING. We don’t have it right yet. We have a theory. I shared it. There was applause — one I didn’t deserve, but one that our system would gratefully appreciate. An acknowledgment of our courageous dive into doing what is right for those we serve…our patients and their loved ones.

I served as a voice box for a system that creates its own path. I am one architect in a company of many designers and artists in this canvas compassionate care.

To my Canadian and South American friends…thank you for your courage and your vision and your intolerance of anything less than a personal focus on doing better. To my USA colleagues…thanks for your wild commitment to mission. Thank you for tolerating and then validating my fanaticism for the patient’s experience. Your overwhelming response has humbled me and, most importantly, has reminded me of why I do what I do. I began with a story of my father, my daughter, and my son. They are my inspiration. You allowed me to share my heart and then share my perspective…flaws and all. I shared the vision of the exec team … Carl, Steve, Sallye, Jacque, John, Herb, and Fred and their tireless commitment to those we serve and those who do the serving. I shared our aim and our method. It resonated.

I sit here tonight, reflecting on our time together, the conversations with you all and the ideas for how we might treat our patients differently. I reflect on the emotions and the pragmatics of what is possible. We can do this! Thank you for asking me to represent OUR voice in the ‘greatest work on the planet’.


Sean Keyser
Experience Geek

Lost In Space: The Risk and Return of facebook Dialogue in the Political Season

Ya ready? This one might require a comfortable chair and a few minutes 🙂

I’ve seen a number of posts lately calling for a ban on political opinion on facebook. Why? This medium is a source of connection. A virtual Washington Mall or Tahrir Square. People speak up for lots of reasons. There are days when i want to share with pals how my day was, how the dog is doing, how the workout went, how I love my kids, and what songs I dig. There are other days when expressing pain or joy with the hundreds out there gives me a sense of connection and support. So why should I mute when I have an opinion about the direction of our country and, MORE IMPORTANTLY, the direction of our planet? Does it detract from the idea that this real estate is designed only for the small talk and superficial elements of this life? I don’t buy it. It’s one thing to opine and another to use this space for mean-spirited and harmful expression. I hope I never cave in to the latter. Should I, I know you will all hold me accountable.

I have learned and grown so much through reading the views of the facebook community. I have been inspired and disgusted. I’ve been put in my place and I have found new places. I have seen the character of so many revealed through their narrative. I have been a part of the joy and the risk of dialogue.

I am by no means a wise man. But I think. I believe. I advocate based on my beliefs and values. I respect others who do the same…most of the time. As cliche as it sounds, respect IS earned. I learned over a decade ago that expressing my opinion, whether as an advocate of healthcare as a right and not a privilege, or as an advocate of peace over conquest, or as a seeker of truth to validate or refute what I had experienced before, or as a student of life in general, that my views would not always be popular or comfortable. I can’t and won’t apologize for following my heart AND my head when questions plague me. I have found a peace in my journey. My faith validated. My love of others who share what I believe and those who don’t has grown stronger and richer. I care more deeply than ever. And with that depth of caring comes great joy and even greater pain. Greater because digging reveals layers with such a powerful voice. Those voices create tension. This world is not adequately represented by talking heads on cable news or behind pulpits on Sunday morning or by politicians in one little slice of a world that isn’t just like us and SHOULDN’T be.

Tonight I strolled through the evening posts and found, as expected, a number of rants put out there with such carelessness and spin that they bordered on opinion- malpractice. I laughed to avoid crying or throwing my laptop over the deck of my town home – as if it would somehow silence the ignorance. But then it hit me. It isn’t so much the gross injustices and fabricated banners and “facts” spewed by the one or two extremists; it is the number of “likes” that seem to follow so automatically without appearing to have much intellectual or emotional challenge.

Tonight I saw one that took the proverbial cake.


The message read: “God is Going With Me When I Vote In November” The poster’s own comment was, “And if EVERYONE that claims to know the Only True God said this then the election would not even be close. And like it or NOT, that’s a FACT.”


I am by no means in a majority with my current “friends” list when it comes to ideology or philosophy in this life. I’m okay with that. I don’t think I have it all figured out. But I do know when to throw the bullshit flag. While we should be talking about economic policy, foreign policy, education, healthcare, and human rights (to name a few), the elephant in the room (how ironic) is the religion of the candidates. In one case it does matter because of the compost of lies, and in another case it shouldn’t matter because they are the candidate’s own beliefs…just not a campaign topic. Good for him.

For those who try to use their faith as a campaign banner…and also suggesting that their faith is THE faith, I see incredible misrepresentations and outright omissions because it might just create a crack in their theo-political rhetoric. On one hand I am seeing the ignorance of Obama’s faith as an opportunity to paint him as a “non-believer” for political convenience. In another case, ignorance of Governor Romney’s beliefs, or should I say just keeping it quiet because it might stir up some controversy. It shouldn’t, but it might.

“Fact” is…these are good men. Men of faith. Men who believe that a being much bigger than them has a plan that can’t be vetoed or filibustered or pork-barrelled. I doubt either of them would have the nerve to suggest that God is on their side.

So, with all deserved criticism and certain unleashing of the righteous indignation I am sure to hear, I am re-posting my reply to that original post. I must. Simply don’t read if it creates an uncomfortable stir. I think there is a place for this on these pages.



Unfortunately for you and all of the rest of the sheep headed for the Right Cliffs of Hyperbole, this is NOT a fact. God isn’t Republican or Democrat or Libertarian or Independent or Socialist or a Capitalist or any other invention of people who can’t stand not having a label to satisfy their own need to associate with common agendas. If it weren’t for the Republican candidate being “right” minded, most Christians would be calling this Mormon a cult-follower (also a total injustice, as the Church of Latter Day Saints has more faith and compassion than most other denominations put together). I’ve heard it a hundred times from preachers in my home town. Try reading our current President’s book about his faith. His book, not one about him. I have heard from a number of Christian Democrats (many from the Gulf Coast) who are disgusted to find that the right thinks they somehow have a closer tie to Jesus. How sad…and how entirely fabricated. Heaven forbid (pun intended) that you acknowledge that most Protestant (whatever the hell that means) pulpit rhetoric would argue that Joseph Smith is a “false prophet.” I heard it over and over as a young member of a misguided congregation. Mitt believes that he (Joseph, that is) was instructed by God, and is, in fact, a prophet. Where is that in your mantra, Bill? Try and window dress it all you like, but God is with truth. Your candidate’s beliefs (which I respect immensely) don’t hold up to most Christian “party line.” They are just too comfortable making Obama out as a Muslim (a silly and preposterous lie of convenience) or an atheist (just as much a lie). The only thing Righteousness and the Right have in common is a root word, whose definitions should never be confused. 

9 Million Degrees of Separation…8 degrees of Promise

Sunday morning.

There is a touch of fall in the morning. Not an enthusiastic arrival, but a little more subtle. Noticeable, like thinking you hear a familiar voice and turning to see.  The morning breeze that flows through the patio at my favorite bistro this early morning is just cool enough to look up at the clouds and ask them when they might break long enough for the sun to offer her warm balance.

A few degrees are significant.

My old dog and best friend, Tybee, is in his twilight time. He has a host of things that ail him. His back legs fail daily and his dog version of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) makes it a bit more of a chore to get a good breath. Cataracts lead to a navigation flaw now and then. But he is full of life. He has the spirit of puppy days.

As the sun rose this morning we stepped outside for our morning walk. They take longer than they used to. For most of his sweet life I was literally pulled the entire walk. Today it was a slow and quiet stroll. He stops to rest his legs and occasionally just lies down and lets me know he needs a moment. But this morning, as we stepped out onto the porch and prepared to negotiate the three brick steps to the sidewalk and the waiting common area, his snout tilted upward and he took a deep breath. He had a look of pleasant surprise. He sort of slid down the steps and almost bounced to the walkway. For the first time in months he trotted down the way, stopping to investigate now and then, trotting again. We crossed the avenue to the grassy hill. He collapsed (intentionally) and rolled and rolled and rolled on the dew dropped lawn. He smiled big (yes, dogs smile!). He rose and he attempted a bit of a jog. Then, his legs and lungs reminded him not to push it too much and he slowed to a happy lope.

A few degrees were the variable in play here today.

I thought of the last two weeks. A political smorgasbord. I watched and read and listened to the candidates and their cronies and the pundits and the critics and the passersby. I realize it was a platform fair of sorts. The convention always is. That’s okay with me.

What struck me was the sheer venom. Much more from one side. I don’t expect Kubaya and a group hug. The fact check sites were having a field day cutting through the spin of the angry right and the exaggerated claims of the idealist left. All in all, I heard what I expected to hear. As an American without a party that truly represents my complete set of values and and aspirations, I listened for solutions and vision. Getting there was not easy. The platform noise gets in the way of progress. I have my strong opinions on who can most capably lead this nation at this time. That is for another post. I have stronger opinions at the abysmal failure of Congress – the true barriers to any progress of any kind.

What gets me the most is chasm that separates our proxy members. Is it not possible to simply acknowledge that no party will adequately represent the people in their beautiful and rich diversity? Knowing that we vary in color, values, faith (or lack of it), cultural traditions, preferences and all manner of difference, it seems to me that some sense of community and respect might just be in order. God help us if one of these pissed of tea baggers talked about how we can support those with burdens without being labeled a socialist. I have a dream (humbly borrowing this section of the greatest speech ever delivered) of the hard left understanding that prosperity isn’t the enemy. Our problems are complicated and require something more that a gun, a poster, a tax, a reduction of tax, a policy, or a Super PAC.

The greatest tool and most underemployed tool we have is dialogue. Not talking points or platform rhetoric. A conversation. A conversation, lots of conversations about the challenges and the common solutions that are begging to be considered. They are out there.

Washington needs a touch of Fall to cool the emotions that don’t add value. It needs a breeze to fuel those that do.

A few degrees.

Off to pursue happiness. Another walk with the pup. He is surely saying, “God bless America…and Fall.”