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Sully Sullenberger Life Hero

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[AARP® Real Possibilities] [Sully Sullenberger, the pilot who safely landed an airplane with 155] [passengers and crew on the Hudson River, chats with the AARP Bulletin] [On Using His Fame for Good] [Sully Sullenberger] One of the biggest surprises for all of us directly involved with this flight was that, unlike most stories, this one did not fade away with the end of the news cycle because of the way it happened, what had happened, where it happened— the time in the world's history— during the financial meltdown when it seemed as if everything was going wrong and some people had begun to doubt human nature. And then this event inspired people and gave them hope. And I've become the public face of that. So I feel an intense obligation to treat this story with respect because of the way it makes people feel. And when my first officer, Jeff Skiles, and I found out in the first few weeks that this story wasn't going to fade away, we felt an intense obligation to use it for good— to do as much good as we could in every way we could for as long as we could to represent not only our colleagues still working as professional pilots and flight attendants. We know from the 1999 Institute of Medicine report and others—it's estimated that in this country alone, every year there are 200,000 preventable medical deaths. When you include what are considered medical errors, which I think are really mostly system failures and healthcare-associated conditions, like hospital-acquired infections— and that's the equivalent of 3 airliners crashing every day with no survivors— something that would not be tolerated in my world. But because they happen one at a time, and the failures are often buried, we have not yet achieved the public awareness and the political will we need to change it. [On Why the Health Care System is so Unsafe] I should say first of all that medical professionals are as skilled and as dedicated as any. But they operate within a fragmented system— one that has not been imbued with a system approach— one in which the culture has not progressed as we have in aviation. It's very similar to what aviation was like several decades ago, in the bad old days, when captains were not good leaders— they didn't build teams— they were arrogant, autocratic, and the accident rate reflected that. Now we teach them to have these human skills— to be able to lead teams effectively— to communicate well— to manage the workload— to manage error— to make better decisions collectively. And that's one of the things that I was most professionally proud of prior to this flight to the Hudson 5 years ago was my involvement, along with thousands of other pilots nationwide, at changing the cockpit culture at our airlines and teaching pilots how to be better leaders— how to be more inclusive and have better outcomes. [On Gridlock in Congress] Two years ago, I was in Washington, DC, at the National Press Club, where I was on a panel about improving information technology in (inaudible) and healthcare. and the night before, healthcare leaders and I had a private dinner in one of the fancy, Washington-area restaurants— a dozen people around a conference table for 3 hours. And at the end of the evening, I wanted to take a straw poll. And so I went around the room, and there were people there from World Health Organization, from major clinics— names that you would recognize. There was a former health minister of a European country and 2 congressmen from one particular side of the aisle. And when I turned to my colleague to the left of me, and I said, "Do you think that we will "finally achieve improvements in quality and safety that will not only save lives, but save money?" And he flatly said, "No. "I think medicine is too complex— the problem is too big—too difficult. I just don't see it happening." The man to his left said, "I've been doing this for 30 years, and these kinds of improvements in quality and safety take time." The man to his left said, "Well, it may eventually happen in 20 years." And it was this way around the room— yes, no, maybe so. And I got to one of the congressmen— directly across from me— and his response stunned me. He said, "Even if I could get my colleagues across the aisle "to agree to this, I would be suspicious of their motives— of their agenda." And after I regained my composure, I said, "Congressman, I don't mean to be impertinent, "but if we could get both sides of the aisle "to agree on measures that would improve quality and safety "and save money as well as lives— would their motivation really matter to you?" And he had a look on his face as if he had never before considered that possibility. And he finally said, "Well, I guess not." And so we finished the round and finally it was back to me. And I said, "Since there are 200,000 "preventable medical deaths every year in this country, "I think that eventually, like we do about most crises, we will do the right thing." Although sometimes it is only after— as Churchill is purported to have said about us— after we've exhausted every other possibility. The question is, when will we do it? Will it be in 20 years, after 4 million more preventable medical deaths? My vote is to do it now.

Video Details

Duration: 5 minutes and 35 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Genre: None
Views: 27
Posted by: aarp on Aug 6, 2014

Sully Sullenberger, now retired "Miracle on the Hudson" pilot, who safely landed an airplane with 155 passengers and crew on the Hudson River, talks heroism, reinvention as a champion for patient safety, and new fear of flying.

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