Big Ben, Covent Garden, and the Thames: Lessons Learned from a Visit to London—Collaboration Improves Outcomes

Dr Kevin Campbell
Author of Women and Cardiovascular Disease: Addressing Disparities in Care
Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, University of North Carolina, North Carolina, USA

This past week I have had the honour and pleasure of introducing my book Women and Cardiovascular Disease in London. During the book-signing event, I was able to meet with many of my European colleagues from both the media as well as the healthcare space. As the evening’s discussions continued into the night, I once again realised just how much we have left to do in addressing gender disparities in care—it is not just a problem of a single country, it is truly a global issue. More importantly, I once again became aware of just how small the world really is and how many problems we share as a world community of healthcare providers. While we are separated by oceans and answer to different governments, healthcare systems, and regulations, one thing remains constant: our devotion to the care of our patients coupled with our desire to improve care and outcomes for all patients.

In the US, we have worked diligently over the last 10 years to raise awareness for women and cardiovascular disease. We have made great strides in the identification and treatment of women with occult heart disease (HD). While the numbers are improving, disparities in care remain. The American Heart Association and the annual Go Red for Women campaigns have made a remarkable difference in promoting awareness, advocacy, and research. We cannot, however, rest on our accomplishments—we must do more in the US to continue to close the gap. In the UK, I think that we can and must do even more. After my discussions during the book signing I realised that the level of awareness in the UK among women, the media, and healthcare providers is even lower than in the US. During the event, I was able to chat with numerous bright and motivated attendees who are excited to be part of a wave of change in cardiac care for women throughout the UK. We identified many ways in which we may be able to improve education and awareness of women and HD, in Britain and throughout Europe. Even though the event lasted little more than 2 hours, we were able to brainstorm numerous ideas and made plans for future discussions. It struck me that through collaboration and co-operation across oceans and among different nationalities, we can not only make an impact in our own countries, we make even bigger impacts (both at home and abroad) through a more global approach. When we work together towards a common goal we are able to generate ideas and harness the potential of larger numbers of professionals with disparate academic and social backgrounds. This can lead to novel solutions. Collaboration is a way in which individuals or groups can work together to generate solutions. However, collaboration is a complex process where people from different backgrounds must come together to effect change.

But how can we be effective and make the biggest impact?

  1. Collaboration is a journey: collaboration does not happen overnight. Relationships develop over time. Some of the most important keys to success are communication, mutual respect, and compromise, as well as a commitment and ‘buy-in’ from all invested parties. There are always initial periods of brainstorming and conversation that lead to even bigger ideas. As we work together to solve global issues such as disparities of care for women with HD, we must pursue a common goal. Teaming up with others is a powerful way to improve outcomes and improve success.
  2. Collaboration may be best when spontaneous: collaboration cannot be forced. We must learn to appreciate the talents of others and leverage those talents in a way that produces successful ideas. Working sessions followed by dinner or other gatherings in social settings often produce the most important breakthroughs. Amazing ideas commonly result when we least expect them.
  3. Collaboration requires that we know ourselves and manage diversity effectively: the benefit of collaboration is the ability to bring together a diverse group of people with different backgrounds. Collaboration requires that we have co-operation both horizontally and vertically—there must be mutual respect, while maintaining structure and leadership within the group. The diversity of opinions allows us to attack issues from unique angles. The most important factor in producing measurable results for patients is the assimilation of ideas into a new and coherent way of thinking about common problems.

I am excited about the opportunity to collaborate with others throughout the world in order to improve care for women. I believe that there is a great opportunity to raise awareness of disparities in care in the UK and throughout Europe. It is my hope that through co-operation and collaboration with my European colleagues, we will be able to improve cardiac care for women all over the world.

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