United Flight 2042

Yesterday at about 7:20am, I was standing with several classmates at our gate in the Washington Reagan airport. A voice came over the loud-speaker: “United flight 2042 to San Francisco is now delayed due to a crew member shortage. A replacement crew member is on a flight to Washington, and the new departure time is 9:30am.” People are around us groaned and looked to grab seats at the gate and surrounding restaurant…

As I reflect on the first day of the conference, it is fitting that our trip to TTE began in this way. Among the many takeaways, it is clear from my first year of medical school and from our first-day discussions that communication and teamwork are everything. The airline industry values its personnel and the critical roles that they each play to such an extent, that they have built protocols to ensure a fully functioning team before take-off. Delays and temporary frustrations are secondary to a system that is set up for optimal outcomes.

I think also about Helen’s comments regarding teamwork during the Lewis Blackman documentary. She expressed a desire to “know who is in charge” and yet also to be introduced to each member of the team. Her desires demonstrate a true picture of leadership, acknowledging the vital roles of each team member. Despite my “status” as a student on the medical team, I know that I have important contributions to make to the care and safety of patients. Students are like the crew members: they may not make the headliners for their contributions, but they are a necessary part of the process nonetheless.