In 2013, Donna Cryer founded the Global Liver Institute following her own experience as a liver transplant patient. The Institute focuses on the introduction of innovation to help make a difference in liver healthcare.

Taking to the stage at this year’s Astellas Patient Advocacy Summit, Cryer shared with the audience one of the Institute’s most successful programs to date during her Lessons Learned talk entitled ‘The Power of Mentoring.’

Cryer’s tale began with a chance invitation to the Annual Johns Hopkins Medical Staff Leadership Retreat two years ago – an invitation provided by Chip Davis, Former Vice President of Innovation and Patient Safety at Johns Hopkins Medicine and current CEO of the Sibley Memorial Hospital.

During the meeting, a question was posed to Cryer by one of the senior executives present: how do we remain patient-centric? Cryer’s answer was to “have a patient mentor that you meet with throughout the year” – a spontaneous answer that would eventually lead to the development of a revolutionary CEO-mentoring program now instated at Sibley.

Cryer would later be asked to become the patient mentor for Chip Davis himself, which she accepted. For over a year, Cryer and Davis met for hour-long sessions once a month to talk through what mattered to patients the most.

“We got to know each other as people, as leaders in the field desperate to introduce patient-centricity to care,” said Cryer.

During the year, the meetings became more formal, built around examples of patient-centric care elsewhere and from suggestions sent in from employees at Sibley. Eventually, clinicians and administrators would join their meetings, including surgeons, nurses and physicians from all over the hospital. Cryer herself also began to contact transplant teams outside the hospital to learn about their work and see if it could be incorporated at Sibley too.

“My goal was to make the leader of one of the top hospitals in the world say, ‘why didn’t I think about that?’,” said Cryer.

The year-long program has resulted in several successes for patient advocacy. The Global Liver Institute now has an ongoing partnership with the Johns Hopkins Innovation Center looking at developing guidelines for the long-term management of post-liver transplant. Johns Hopkins is now looking at apps and other innovative methods to develop resources for their patient communities, as well as developing and testing a patient mentoring system curriculum for its hospitals.

Closing her talk, Cryer described her final discussion with Davis at the end of the year-long program: “I asked him ‘has this been worth your time?’ He said ‘yes, because I thought I knew what patients were thinking. We have a patient and family advisory council, we do surveys, we do focus groups and I really thought I had enough of a patient perspective. But after meeting with you, I realized I didn’t’.”

Improving patient-centricity through the power of mentoring

Astellas Patient Advocacy is a function within Corporate Affairs at Astellas that focuses on creating, building and maintaining third-party relationships. We serve as a conduit between Astellas and external stakeholders to help improve patient outcomes, improve access issues and address patients’ unmet needs head on.