Drew’s Medical & Health Humanities Kicks Off Alum Colloquia Series

Featuring Dr. Lauren A. Jutchenko G’14

November 2023 – Drew’s Caspersen School of Graduate Studies Medical & Health Humanities program kicked off their new Alum Colloquia series by welcoming Dr. Lauren A. Jutchenko G’14, vice president of risk management & patient experience at Sun River Health.

She presented “Putting Patients First: Leveraging Patient Feedback to Improve the Patient Experience.”

“The Medical & Health Humanities Program recognizes the invaluable contribution of its alums who serve as the backbone of the program,” said Director of the Medical & Health Humanities program Merel Visse. “Through partnerships with various hospitals and public health institutions where many alums are employed, our program can be at the forefront of care and serve its students by offering real-time learning experiences. Alums, unlike anyone else, understand the importance of humanizing care through the medical & health humanities lens. They are living the questions every day, and they need to respond to everyday challenges. Not an easy responsibility, but they can count on each other and on our program while improving health care.”

Sun River Health, an organization with a mission to always provide care in a respectful, patient centered environment of healing, was founded by four African American women in the 1970’s in Peekskill, New York. It is one of the largest federally qualified health centers in the U.S.

“During my time at Sun River Health, I really leaned upon my background in medical humanities to make great improvements in the organization,” she said.

Jutchenko started her career as a counselor. “While it’s rewarding to make a difference in patients’ lives on a one-to-one level, I found that the systems and the structure of the organizations that I was working with had a lot of room for improvement and found myself wanting to be an agent of change on a greater spectrum.”

It was during this time she realized she needed to do more. She was introduced to the Medical & Health Humanities program at Drew. “I felt their offerings were aligned with what I wanted to achieve in my career, and as my life’s purpose as well,” said Jutchenko. “I value the perspective of looking at healthcare from a humanities perspective, really instilling the idea that patients are first, they’re humans.”

Jutchenko spoke about how patient voices are subjective and cannot be verified in the same way as clinical outcomes. Taking patient voices and creating co-designed solutions creates a platform where patients and providers are equal partners with the goal of creating a better experience. “It’s easy for some to forget about patients as individuals,” she said.

The virtual audience shared instances when they spoke up regarding their own healthcare experiences. “It takes one brave patient to say something that many patients are probably experiencing,” said Jutchenko. “It’s empowering and helps our patients to feel like they are making a difference in the care they are receiving.”

Jutchenko co-chairs the Patient Experience Team Committee at Sun River Health, a group tasked with monitoring the entire patient experience. They gather patient feedback via telephone, text, or email surveys, using the results to highlight areas of strength and weaknesses to inform quality improvement efforts.

In addition, a consumer advisory committee is in place to monitor the survey results and take action when needed. Patients are invited to meetings and focus groups to gain experience feedback and vet new materials and programs.

Jutchenko thanks Drew for her experience in the Medical & Health Humanities program. “My time at Drew really shaped me as a person,” she said. “I worked to improve care and services through the organization that I work with. And not only that, I also find that those principles shape me on the day to day, and my personal life, as well.”

The presentation concluded with a lively, open discussion and Q&A session.

“We are tremendously grateful for Lauren’s work reaching far beyond Sun River Health, and for the wisdom, connections, and experience of our alums,” said Visse. “We actively create a space for alums to share and receive support, allowing them to continue learning even after graduation. They play an integral role by serving as mentors, practicum counselors, preceptors, liaisons, and sometimes adjunct faculty, bridging the gap between current students and faculty.”

Click here to view the inaugural Speaking about Care podcast, featuring interviews with esteemed alums Beth Bertolini G’14, Amy Eisenberg G’14,’17, Nancy Gross G’08, and Yvette Vieira G’15.

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