A few days ago I went to Pennsylvania to speak at a patient safety event sponsored by Excela Health. It was a pretty drive- through Maryland, across the Appalachian Mountains, and then into the Allegheny Mountains heading through Southern Pennsylvania. As Tom the driver and I drove deeper into central Pennsylvania, we passed through little towns- Breezewood, Somerset, Ligonier. I imagined these were old mining towns that were once bustling with life and growth. I was sad to see so many empty storefronts with “For Rent” signs in the windows.

Latrobe, Pennsylvania, was my destination. Tom is a history buff and with every trip we go on he always does a little research and shares his interesting tidbits with me. Fred Rogers (of “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood”) grew up in Latrobe, and so did the golfer Arnold Palmer. Plus, the banana split was first created in Latrobe.
The great people of Excela Health organized a wonderful event: a reception at 5:30 pm with delicious food, my presentation at 6:30, and a book signing to follow.
There were a couple of things that made this event stand out for me:
-It was held in the Fred Rogers Center – a beautiful facility donated by Mr. Rogers’ family. There were glass cases that held Mr. Rogers’ famous red sweater and blue coat, his blue sneakers and loafers, and the puppets- King Friday and Lady Elaine. All of this notes- yellowing and faded- that he had written for the shows were displayed in the cases. I am 44 year old. I grew up with Mr. Rogers, so it was fun to see all of this.

-Excela did something that most hospitals- at least the ones at which I have been invited to speak- have not done before. They opened up the event to the entire community. It was nice that they recognized that this topic- patient safety- was not just for the health care industry. It was about getting the patient and the family involved. This was something that I had wanted to see for many years and it was a thrill to finally be able to speak to not only health care providers, but regular people just like me.
-The book signing began much like the others. I wrote notes and signed books for doctors, nurses, board members, administrators. Then I began seeing young (really young) faces- students who were in medical school, nursing school and even students who were in high school. A young boy with a baseball cap and jeans that hung low on his hips handed me the book and said, “I think I might want to be a doctor one day.” I wrote a long note to him and handed him back the book. He read the note and then stuck his hand out to shake mine and said, “Thank you, Mrs. King.”
It was great to meet these young, fresh, bright minds and I am honored that they took time out of their evenings when they could have been doing homework, playing sports, chatting on Facebook, or watching TV to come hear me speak and buy Josie’s Story. They will read the book and I hope their dreams of becoming doctors and nurses will come true. I believe if they do, they will always remember Josie.
Thank you, Excela Health, for all of your great patient safety work. Thanks, too, for a wonderful evening. Most of all, thank you to all of the students who came to hear me. Study hard and become doctors and nurses. You are the next generation, the new culture. YOU will make a difference in the lives of many.