While attending medical school, Dr. Mike Bird never thought he would become a health care administrator. However, during his pediatric residency and fellowship in pediatric emergency medicine, he developed an interest in improving health care systems. This led him to pursue a graduate degree in health care administration soon after joining Akron Children’s in 1994 as an emergency physician.
“Observing patient flow and wait times, seeing the impact of unreliable care, and learning about medical errors and the risk for patient harm inspired me to further my knowledge,” he said. “For the last 25+ years, I’ve had the opportunity to work in many areas of hospital administration, with the past several years focused primarily on safety as the vice president of patient and staff safety.”
When he retires on Oct. 7, Dr. Wendy Van Ittersum, pediatric hospitalist, will step into this role as medical director of patient and staff safety.
“Improving quality and reducing harm is a ‘team sport,’ and I’ve been so fortunate to work with such passionate, bright and fun co-workers at Akron Children’s. Our mission is noble – improving the health of children – so it makes our work so rewarding,” he said.
What brought you to Akron Children’s?
I grew up in Akron, but left for my training. I went to medical school at the University of Cincinnati, completed my pediatric residency in Rochester, NY., and my fellowship in pediatric emergency medicine at Nationwide Children’s. Akron Children’s was close enough to the University of Michigan that I could complete my master’s in public health there by attending classes on the weekend. Akron Children’s also offered the best combination of administrative and clinical opportunities, while being close to family in my hometown.
Why has it been important for you to continue to see patients in the Emergency Department?
It has been so helpful for me to continue to work at the bedside and see first-hand what happens on the front line. I still get immense satisfaction in providing care to children. It has made my quality and safety work better, and I have a better understanding of the stresses and challenges that staff, patients and families face.
What have been your biggest contributions to the organization?
Over the last 20 years, the importance of safety and a safety culture has grown, and at Akron Children’s, we’ve been able to significantly reduce harm to our patients and staff. We’ve created a Just Culture where employees are encouraged to report errors without fear of punitive action. I’ve also played a part in the creation of the Solutions for Patient Safety, the national children’s hospital safety collaborative, where we recognized that by working together, we could more effectively improve patient safety and protect more children and staff from harm.
What are your fondest /most vivid memories of working at Akron Children’s?
There are so many – meeting my wife, Lori, at the hospital, comforting my 32-day-old son after pyloric stenosis surgery, the gratitude expressed by the families of children I made feel better, and coming back to my office after a two-week vacation to find that it had been turned into an amusement park, complete with a Slip’n-Slide! I’ve been fortunate to work with a team that does a lot of great work. We’ve also had a lot of fun and laughter, which is a great combination.
As Mike prepares for retirement, he’s been working closely with Wendy as she transitions to a new leadership role in patient and staff safety.
“Wendy was quickly identified to continue this important work and earlier this year began preparing to lead our safety initiatives,” Mike said. “This work will continue – improving our safety culture, our processes and analyses, and our continued participation in national safety collaboratives – to ensure we keep becoming a safer organization for our patients and staff.”
To honor Mike’s dedication to quality patient care, and patient and staff safety, Dr. Mike Bigham, chief quality officer, has established the Michael W. Bird, M.D. Quality Fund. This fund will be used to ensure we achieve the six critical aims of health care quality as defined by the Institute of Medicine: Safe, Timely, Efficient, Equitable and Patient-centered care (S.T.E.E.P.).
Dr. Bigham noted that “First and foremost, I consider Mike Bird a great mentor and a true friend. Beyond that, the Michael W. Bird, M.D. Quality Fund was a natural way to honor his dedication to the mission of Akron Children’s. Many generations of patients, families and employees have benefitted and will continue to benefit from the legacy of safety and quality established under Mike’s leadership. This fund honors that legacy of continuous improvement.”
To honor his legacy of safety and quality, make a donation to the Michael W. Bird, M.D. Quality Fund.