QI Innovator Award Winner – Alice Simmons

Wednesday, May 20, 2015 – It is our pleasure to honor Alice Simmons, from the Immunization, Tuberculosis, and Syringe Services/Exchange programs at Whatcom County Health Department (WCHD) in Washington State, as a public health QI Innovator. Congratulations Alice!

What makes Alice Simmons a QI Innovator?

Alice Simmons supervises the Immunization, Tuberculosis, and Syringe Services/Exchange programs at Whatcom County Health Department (WCHD) in Washington State. She is known as the “poster person for QI” and diligently works to diffuse QI and hone programs to perfection throughout the organization. One of the many ways that Alice has spread the word about QI is by using a Kanban board posted outside her office to gather her staff and discuss QI and improvement progress. She has worked on several QI projects whose summaries are posted on PHQIX, and last year, she served as lead on the Food Safety and Health Equity QI project. Alice regularly presents to the WCHD Performance Management Team on current progress on QI projects. Alice is instrumental in bringing other staff into the QI process and sharing her wealth of knowledge with them.

We asked Alice to share some insights regarding challenges encountered, lessons learned, and advice about public health QI. Here's what she had to say!

Q: Describe one challenge you have encountered in conducting QI in public health and how you worked to overcome that challenge.

A: I have worked on several QI projects, each with a different team of individuals. During the first several meetings, each project encountered resistance to change. This resistance was particularly strong once a change was identified for implementation. Interestingly, even the individuals who were strong proponents of the change resisted it. Each group I’ve worked with has dealt with resistance to change by first acknowledging up front that change can be challenging and difficult. Often, resistance to change can be decreased by maintaining some current processes while incorporating new procedures and techniques. Generally, resistance decreases as members contribute, take ownership of the project, and see progress toward goal achievement. 

Q: What is one key lesson you have learned in your experience implementing public health QI initiatives?

A: In spite of initial resistance that often occurs among team members, one project often leads to another. As a QI project progresses, staff begin to view QI as a continuous process, and QI becomes a part of their everyday work.

Q: What advice would you give to public health practitioners who are new to QI?

A: Start with a small focused QI project. With our first project, we started with a team of 10, which included representatives from 2 external community health care networks. After several months, we realized that too many aspects of the project were out of our control, and there were too many QI team members, which was frustrating for all. The team refocused on an internal project, and the number of members decreased to eight. Almost immediately, the staff experienced success because we were working on a project over which we had control. This really energized the QI members and provided even more momentum.

Congratulations, Alice! Thank you for sharing these wonderful insights, for your demonstrated leadership in public health QI, and for being a member of the PHQIX community!

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Submitted by tkane on

It's quite an honor to be recognized by your peers and PHQIX as a QI Innovator. Way to go! Keep up the great work.

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Submitted by Mary Ann on

Great insight Alice -

As a novice PH QI practitioner I appreciate the encouragement!  I think the hardest part is getting staff to buy into the process and not take it so personal. 

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wwilliams's picture
Submitted by wwilliams on

Congratulations Alice! You are doing such great work in beautiful Whatcom County.

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Kindest regards,

Wanda Williams
Quality Management Consultant/Accreditation Coordinator
http://www.tpchd.org ~ http://www.phcfe.org