Congratulations to Dr. Sarah Lopez who was recently honored with the “Catalyst” Award from the Academy for Women in Academic Emergency Medicine (AWAEM). The purpose of the award is “to honor a female faculty who has made outstanding contributions through clinical work, teaching, mentorship, role modeling, or administration with great local or regional impact.” Dr. Lopez is currently serving as the Patient Safety Officer for Harbor-UCLA Medical Center and has a wide scope of responsibilities—given that almost everything can pertain to patients’ safety while getting care in the hospital.
Among her many roles, she served as the lead in the Just Culture initiative at Harbor-UCLA, working with LA Health Services to implement the innovative “Safe and Just Culture” curriculum that ensures safety is an individual’s and organization’s priority, and where errors are reported without fear of retaliation. She trained about 500 supervisors and managers on how to apply the principles when adverse events occurred in their area. This has fostered a cultural shift from blame to one where people collaboratively help identify errors before they reach a patient and address system issues that could have contributed. In addition, Dr. Lopez helped pioneer the Second Victim Support Program, which has served as a model for the other hospitals in the LA County Department of Health Services. Helping Healers Heal (H3), as the program is called, promotes physician wellness and fosters a new culture where staff support each other through difficult patient experiences. During the Spring of 2020, her team met with 427 staff members to help them process what was happening at the hospital because of the COVID pandemic.