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Physician leads team’s effort to address patient safety

Hana Hakim, MD (left), speaks with Craig Gilliam of the Infection Prevention and Control team.

Hana Hakim, MD (left), speaks with Craig Gilliam of the Infection Prevention and Control team.

In late 2014 when cases of the Ebola virus began to pop up in the U.S., the St. Jude Infection Prevention and Control team swung into action.

A group formed to address the issue comprehensively—the Ebola Preparedness Task Force—and St. Jude took steps to ensure patients, families, staff and visitors were in the loop when it came to awareness and prevention measures.

As leader of the Infection Prevention and Control team, I led educational sessions for staff members where we discussed the virus’ history, its symptoms and how to be proactive.

The campaign highlighted the importance of preparation for the Infection Prevention and Control team as well as the collaborative nature of our team’s work.

That collaboration, combined with the hospital’s commitment to resources, is why I decided to stay at St. Jude after completing an Infectious Diseases fellowship early in my career. During my fellowship, I also earned a master’s degree in Epidemiology from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center.

Originally from Lebanon, I studied chemistry as a premed student at the American University of Beirut, where I earned a medical degree. During high school and college, a group of friends and I volunteered at orphanages, where we saw the effects of the country’s 15-year civil war on its people, specifically its children.

It was challenging to go through those times, and it made me understand how difficult it was for children to have to go through them. I think this is when pediatrics really began to interest me.

I followed my Infectious Diseases fellowship at St. Jude with a year-long fellowship in the pediatric HIV program. Later, I transitioned into a role as associate faculty member in Infectious Diseases, focusing on the study of fever and neutropenia in children.

I became medical director of St. Jude Infection Prevention and Control in 2012, leading the hospital’s efforts to ensure a healthy and safe environment for patients, family and staff members.

Our patients are the most susceptible and prone to infections. We often must take extra steps or think outside of the box to keep our patients safe since they are immunocompromised.

The Infection Prevention and Control team works on a variety of safety projects such as encouraging flu vaccinations, prevention of central line and catheter infections, isolation practices and hand hygiene education.

A great strength of St. Jude is that we all work together to keep our patients safe. If there is a need for something to be done to keep our patients safe, we find the resources and support. That is not a limitation at St. Jude.

Hana Hakim, MD, is medical director of the St. Jude Infection Prevention and Control team and is an associate faculty member in the Infectious Diseases Department at St. Jude.

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