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Salk Fellowship Brings Campaign Approach to Medical Error

Karen Wolk Feinstein speaking with fellowship members.

As the United States prepares for an important election year, the discussion of health care has once again taken center stage, yet the unconscionable tragedy of deaths from medical error continues to be ignored.

Following the first World Patient Safety Day and the 20th anniversary of the landmark To Err is Human report, the 2019 Jonas Salk Health Activist Fellowship kicked off on September 25, aiming to help emerging health activists learn how to grab the public's attention and pitch policy change to reduce medical error in our country. This year's cohort of the Jonas Salk Health Activist Fellowship heard from Karen Wolk Feinstein, PhD on the history of 20 years of advocacy, research and experimentation to improve medical error that have led to little progress overall. The task for this year's participants in an election year: develop a winning political platform that pitches a call for real reforms in medical error.

Over the course of the next two months, the 29 fellows – ranging from graduate students to young professionals — will expand their activist and public speaking toolset with new case-making frameworks and skills. The fellows come from 14 different universities and representing more than a dozen disciplines and specialties, including medicine, healthcare administration, social work, nursing, law, health management, occupational therapy, healthcare ethics, public health, public policy, and business.

Fellows will learn from campaign managers, elected officials, members of the local media, and public speaking experts as they shape their messages in TED Talk-style presentations. Salk Fellows will give their "campaign" pitches at a closed-door session with representatives of these groups. JHF seeks to arm the fellows with advocacy and messaging skills to advance policy on any major health or social issue.

Members of the 2019 Salk Health Activist Fellowship.
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