At the end of the Spring ImproveCareNow Community Conference, I shared this painting, “You Worry about Its Success” by Hollis Sigler:


I have loved this painting since I first saw it, in part because of the feeling of anticipation that it creates. The description of this painting on the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art website says:

“There is a magical air to the night. It is a moment of expectation. Who is the hostess? Who is the guest? Where are they and when will they arrive? The title of the painting is written in delicate script at the top center of the composition. It is the voice of the hostess who is concerned that all will go right. Her worries become ours in this poignant scene of human affections. The preparations are loving, but the darkened house and absence of any human presence veil our anticipations with anxiety. All may not turn out as expected.”

This is how we, who are deeply involved in the “loving preparations,” sometimes feel before our Community Conferences. We of course always want the next conference to be the “best ever.” And usually, the presenters and their content help ensure a great learning experience for all.  But at a deeper level, what we really want is to have set a scene that will allow all to feel welcome, included, part of the community, free to share their ideas and expertise regardless of role, and that they will leave having felt both delight and full of the “human affections” that are (or should be) the hallmark of a truly collaborative improvement community. We have usually planned an agenda that we are very proud of, but some of it—such as small group discussions that include patients and parents—might push people out of their comfort zone. That’s where the anxiety comes in.

Last week, all did not turn out as expected. Indeed, the community exceeded our expectations because, even more than the last Community Conference, we saw a profound shift in the relationship between the clinicians, parents, and patients in the various rooms. If I ignored the color of the lanyards indicating participants’ roles, I couldn’t tell when watching conversations who was whom. They were ALL teachers, they wereALL learners. They were all people setting aside anxiety about differences in roles, backgrounds, and expertise and creating ideas to create a better future for kids with IBD together.


So to all of you who were there or who were following along from afar on social media: thanks for sharing your time, talents, energy, and expertise at the ImproveCareNow Community Conference. Seeing you all was so much fun (and who doesn’t love singing “Happy Trails” together!), but watching you all become part of the community was a gift.

I’m not worried about its success anymore.

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