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In This Issue:
In just two and a half years, Christian Arbelaez, MD, MPH, has implemented a hospital-wide policy improving patient care, was appointed associate director of an office dedicated to furthering minority careers and has become a national advocate for improving minority access to health care.
Driven by a passion for helping others, the energetic Emergency Medicine physician has proven an effective leader since he joined BWH in July 2004. He will be recognized next month with the 2007 Dennis Thomson Leadership Award, named in honor of the late Dennis Thomson, vice president of Public Affairs from 1991 to 1998, whose legacy is one of compassion and leadership.
“Dr. Arbelaez has exhibited unique and powerful leadership skills and an outstanding commitment to professional development, both in himself and others,” said Ron Walls, MD, chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine. “He has consistently given his time and energy to improve patient care on many fronts.”
Arbelaez’s work implementing a policy to improve the care of intubated and mechanically ventilated patients is testament to his leadership capabilities. When Arbelaez noticed variation in the sedation and management of these patients—who are unable to communicate their pain—he took the initiative to change practice. His drive to improve care led him to chair a multidisciplinary committee that developed a policy with guidelines to keep patients comfortable. The policy was put into practice across the hospital last May, and he is examining several outcomes evaluating its impact. Arbelaez also published an educational booklet for families explaining what to expect when a patient is on a ventilator.
Last year, Arbelaez stepped up to help another group: victims of Hurricane Katrina. He was first among several Emergency Medicine physicians to engage in relief efforts and worked with a team to assess needs and care for those in critical condition.
Arbelaez is just as tireless in his drive to help others succeed professionally. He is one of Emergency Medicine’s top teachers and recently was appointed assistant program director for the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital Harvard Affiliated Emergency Medicine Residency Training Program. Arbelaez also mentors minority medical students through his post as associate director of the Office for Minority Career Development at BWH.
“Dr. Arbelaez always takes the time to listen to me, and he gives me confidence,” said Roberta Capp, a fourth-year medical student from Brazil who decided to pursue Emergency Medicine after shadowing Arbelaez during a clinical rotation. “He shows compassion with students as much as with patients,” she said.
No stranger to overcoming adversity—Arbelaez came to America from Colombia at age 10 and taught himself English—he is steadfast in his commitment to improve minority access to health care.
“Growing up in Texas, I saw my parents experience discrimination and lack of access to care,” he said. “During residency, I decided that I would be a voice for disadvantaged populations, like my family, and be a part of the solution to problems they faced daily. Now I do everything I can to eliminate this discrimination and help those in need.”
Arbelaez is a national advocate for improving minority access to health care. Last year, he was appointed to the Sullivan Alliance to Transform America’s Health Professions, a national panel working to create a diverse and better trained health care workforce. He also serves on the Committee on Diversity in Medicine of the Massachusetts Medical Society and the Young Physicians Round Table of the Association of American Medical Colleges.
Arbelaez’s passion for medicine stems from experiences he had as a child with chronic asthma. “The doctors and nurses who care for you become important influences in your life, and when they make you feel better, you never forget it,” he said.
Surely, Arbelaez’s influence will be just as lasting.