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Column | Leadership

Reflections on Annual Conference: Keynoters nailed it

Column | Leadership

Reflections on Annual Conference: Keynoters nailed it


Image of Aaron Crane

Aaron Crane

What an awesome gathering for HFMA’s 2022 Annual Conference in Denver! I was blown away. Four thousand participants — in person and virtual — heard amazing keynote speakers curated to deliver messages and content ripe for the moment. This served as a call to action laced with hope and inspiration. Let me hit some highlights for those who missed out on this experience.

Zeev Neuwirth, MD, reflected on hundreds of interviews with healthcare innovators and reminded us of the broken nature of our delivery model with unsustainable economics. He pointed out three tsunamis that our current model will not withstand: Senior care and the increased chronic care required with our aging population, health inequity driven by the social determinants of health (SDoH) and global warming. 

Neuwirth also reminded us that we cannot solve tomorrow’s problems with yesterday’s solutions. He said we must reframe the issues and problems, and laid out a road map for doing just that.

Psychiatrist Kelli Harding, MD, MPH, presented on the science of kindness, which she defined as “an act that enhances the welfare of others as an end in itself.” Think about that. Harding explained kindness acts as a stress buffer, lowering cortisol levels and blood pressure while reducing anxiety and depression. She said high-stress neighborhoods have a higher likelihood of poor health outcomes, and there is less depression in neighborhoods with more trees. Harding also noted that education saves eight lives to every one life saved by biomedicine. This is all tied to SDoH. Harding also said a stronger sense of life purpose lowers mortality and the risk of dementia. Do you have a just cause? HFMA has one to share. 

Keynoter D.J. Vanas, a member of the Ottawa Tribe, shared tribal wisdom. He gave us a definition of a warrior, tying it to our foundational desires as humans: “One who has dedicated their life to developing their Creator-given talent and ability so they can be an asset or a benefit to the tribe they serve.” A sense of purpose. Vanas noted that a warrior is committed to self-care. One cannot do their best for the tribe if not in prime health, physically and mentally. Find joy in your life. Focus on your strengths and pressure test them. This is the path to growth, resilience and inner confidence.

Joel Selanikio, MD, closed the conference discussing the intersection of healthcare and technology. He questioned how much of our healthcare system activity is valued by our customers and quoted economist Theodore Levitt who said, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole.” Selanikio noted that consumers have spent substantially more on AirPods than healthcare spends on the electronic health record. He also observed that this consumerism of technology and how it enables self-care is an existential threat to many healthcare organizations. Wow! 

I hope others felt as encouraged, inspired and called to action by these four speakers as I did. I encourage further reflection on their work as we seek to Ignite the Spark.

About the Author

Aaron R. Crane, FHFMA, MHA,

is HFMA's 2022-23 National Chair.

Sign up for a free guest account and get access to five free articles every month.

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