Augusta patient advocate takes new assignment in Arkansas

 

The physician didn’t wash his hands before checking on Julie Moretz’s very sick infant son in his hospital room, but she felt powerless to say anything. Instead, Moretz got a paper towel and fashioned her own sign taped to his bassinet asking personnel to please wash up first.

“That’s what it took for me to start speaking up,” she said.

Since then, Moretz has been helping patients and families find their voice in the health care arena, and now she will be doing it in a newly created position at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. Moretz will be joining former Medical Col­lege of Georgia President Dan­iel W. Rahn, now chancellor at UAMS, as the first associate vice chancellor for patient- and family-centered care.

Daniel Moretz was born with severe heart malformations that required surgery when he was just days old and continued throughout his life, leading to a heart transplant, before he died at age 14 in 2005.

The family and Daniel became staunch advocates for incorporating patient and family input into treatment decisions and making hospital rules easier for families, such as eliminating visiting hours, making it easier for parents to sleep over in the room with sick children, and allowing parents to be present during rounds to ask questions.

Daniel served on a patient advisory committee that helped to build the Children’s Hospital of Georgia by offering input on everything from menus to tile colors.

Moretz became director of Family Services Develop­ment at MCG before moving on to the Institute for Patient- and Family-Centered Care. There, she met up again with Rahn at an intensive training session.

“He brought with him his entire leadership team,” Moretz said. “And they just happened to be at my small group, that’s how we do these seminars, and I really connected with them.”

What followed was a series of phone calls trying to gauge her interest in going to Little Rock.

“I remember telling him, ‘Well, I’m not looking for a position. I’m happy doing what I’m doing.’ ” said Moretz, who was the “Georgia office” for the institute. Finally, she and her husband, David, agreed to come to Arkansas and just take a look.

“I think (Rahn) knew he had me then,” Moretz said, laughing. “When we went out there, I was just really excited about a lot of the work they’ve already started in patient- and family-centered care.”

That includes strong backing from the leadership, she said.

“I just think that they have the potential to certainly be a national model for patient- and family-centered care, very much like MCG was when we were pioneering those efforts in the early days,” Moretz said.

An adjunct faculty position will allow Moretz to help provide that perspective to the next generation of health care providers there.

“I will be able to help create curriculums for students at all of the six colleges” at UAMS, Moretz said.

It is more than just making health care more patient and family friendly. That kind of perspective helps improve the quality of care by reducing
medication errors, for instance, and lessening the length of hospital stays, she said.

“It does lower costs per patient,” Moretz said.

While she is sad to be leaving Augusta, her husband’s boyhood home and Daniel’s final resting place, she promises to be back: Moretz is co-chairwoman of Doctors Who Cook, an annual fundraiser to benefit the Children’s Heart Program Volunteer Council, which will be held this year Aug. 24.

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