Virginia Commonwealth University

New leader takes
health care
to a higher level

Chief safety and quality officer

On Oct. 2, 2013, Gene N. Peterson, M.D., Ph.D., became VCU Medical Center’s first chief safety and quality officer and the VCU School of Medicine’s associate dean for patient safety and quality care. As an integral part of the leadership team, he is charged with taking the medical center to new levels of safety, quality, graduate medical education and curriculum design that crosses all clinical disciplines. A practicing anesthesiologist, he also serves as an attending physician on the anesthesia team.

Gene N. Peterson, M.D., Ph.D.

“We are excited to take this next step in advancing quality and patient safety at VCU Medical Center,” said John Duval, CEO of MCV Hospitals. “Dr. Peterson will play an indispensable role in ensuring that our clinical and learning environments not only deliver safe and high-quality care, but also provide students from all medical disciplines with the required learning to ensure we graduate the next generation of experts in patient safety and quality improvement.”

Peterson, who previously served as associate medical director and co-director of the Center for Clinical Excellence at the University of Washington Medical Center, said part of what attracted him to his new position was the commitment of the VCU Medical Center leadership team to become the safest health care system in the nation.

“The focus on quality and safety is so well-articulated here,” he said. “It is a privilege to join this organization.”

As someone who collaborated on the World Health Organization surgical safety checklist with E. Patchen Dellinger, M.D., for 10 years, Peterson values standardized communication and safety checklists. His to-do items include three goals he hopes to implement within the next two years. The first empowers all members of the organization to speak up if they see something wrong or sense a potential problem.

“If you see something, say something,” Peterson said.

The second revolves around the standardization of transitions of care, or patient handoffs. Every day at the medical center, hundreds of handoffs occur between shifts. Peterson wants to ensure that faculty and residents have the necessary tools and skills to perform the process well.

“We will not only make this the safest place for patients, staff and visitors, we will set the quality and safety standard for the commonwealth of Virginia and the nation.”

– Gene N. Peterson, M.D., Ph.D.

The final goal refers to STAR Service, in which all VCU Medical Center staff and residents take part. STAR Service isn’t a program but rather a culture founded on “Safety First, Every Day” and supported by the medical center’s commitment to provide patients, visitors and fellow team members with superior service.

“We’re all going to improve how to communicate with patients so we can do it clearly, safely and consistently,” Peterson said. “Our goal is that all learners who leave VCU have all three sets of skills.”

He added, “I find VCU an exciting place to be at this point in my career. The infrastructure at VCU Medical Center exists to propel us to become the safest health system in the nation. Starting each morning with the safety call, following behavior-based safety habits to prevent errors, working with our committed Magnet nurses, outstanding staff, our faculty, residents and all of our students in our professional schools, we will not only make this the safest place for patients, visitors and staff, we will set the quality and safety standard for the commonwealth of Virginia and the nation.”