PFCC Advisor, Mentor helps others through their ‘bumps in the road’

Lynda Asher 2Two years ago, when Lynda Asher found out she had cancer in her lungs – again — she did what any reasonable person would do: “I went out that night and bought a surfboard.”

Lynda’s strategy for navigating a chronic illness is “Live for today. Plan for tomorrow, but live for today.” And she wasn’t going to let anything disrupt her strategy.

Not her two rounds of lung cancer. Not her two liver transplants. Not kidney failure or quadruple bypass heart surgery. Certainly not the hepatitis C diagnosis that began her continuing medical adventure in 1998. “A transfusion that saved my life (after a car accident) nearly cost me my life 40 years later,” she says. And then for a while, it seemed like “every year I was losing an organ.”

At 63, Lynda now volunteers as a Michigan Medicine PFCC advisor, helping medical students learn about empathy, serving on a radiation oncology advisory board, consulting on the construction of a new patient tower for University Hospital, and offering one-to-one peer mentoring for liver patients and others who are facing complex diagnoses.

Before her own health forced a retirement, Lynda operated and consulted for several non-profit and environmental organizations, including Ann Arbor’s Project Grow Community Gardens. Even after she became a patient, she founded another organization to support liver patients around the world and became an ambassador for the American Liver Foundation.

Lynda Asher 1

As a peer mentor to other patients, Lynda encourages them to control whatever they can (whether it’s diet, exercise or attitude) and roll with the things they can’t. She says that shortly after she started having health problems, she realized that, “If I wanted my friends and family to want to be around me, I needed to be pretty positive.”

Now she helps other patients find their own paths. “I was flexible and adaptable. I think a lot of people can feel stuck. I can’t get them unstuck. But I can teach them ways to help them be more effective patients. They also appropriately feel alone and scared. I did, also – particularly at my first diagnosis. I just try to lend an ear and a hand to help them get through a bump in their road.

“The universe has kept me alive for a purpose,” Lynda says, “and this is one of the purposes.”

By Dale Parry, PFCC Advisor


PFCC now part of the new Office of Patient Experience


What does change mean for PFCC advisors, peer mentors?

The Office of Patient Experience (OPE) was created in 2016 to coordinate and improve the patient experience across Michigan Medicine. The Patient and Family Centered Care (PFCC) Program is one of two units who will be part of the OPE team, along with Service Excellence. The two combined units have over 19 staff members, plus our 900 patient and family member advisors and peer mentors.

Keith Gran is leading the new department as the organization’s Chief Patient Experience Officer. OPE team members will focus on four main priority areas — access, environment of care, courtesy and communication. The team’s work will continue to be done through partnerships with patients, families and staff members in all areas of the medical center.

“We work hard to provide patients and families with the care they need, at the time they need it, with respect and compassion for the patient and the family,” said Gran. “We are fortunate to have many patient and family advisors who help guide our work and ensure that we are focused on those areas that patients and families feel add the most value.”

Gran quote

Taking PFCC to a whole new level!

PFCC and Service Excellence teams collaborate on projects and share best practices to help units improve the quality, safety and experience of patients and their families. One area they will focus on is empathy-building skills and effective patient and family engagement.

“We know that engaging our staff and faculty to honor what matters most to patients and families is a key driver to improving the patient experience,” said Molly White, manager of adult services for PFCC and now the administrative director of OPE. “There is so much evidence about the value that patient- and family-centered care has on patient outcomes and we have enormous potential to take that to a new level here.”

Works in progress – PFACs, Access Improvement, Quiet Kits and More

In addition to drawing from its existing 16 Patient and Family Advisory Councils (PFACs), OPE seeks to improve the patient experience through the creation of a new advisory group — made up of patients, families, physicians, departmental leaders and nurses — that will provide guidance to the OPE leadership team. The committee will help prioritize which initiatives to adopt and potential practices that could be improved in each of the four focus areas.

For example, in terms of access, many patients attest to the fact that getting a timely appointment with a U-M doctor can be a challenge. To ease such concerns, the OPE team is planning to implement access solutions within the Department of Internal Medicine, beginning with pulmonary and cardiology.

To improve the environment of care, OPE plans to make it easier for patients to navigate the complex academic medical center. To do so, the office is partnering with Volunteer Services to launch the Ambassador Program in August. After receiving training, volunteers will be strategically placed at medical center entrances to greet patients and families, guiding them to their appointment locations. Former PFCC Volunteer Coordinator, Shelly Fox, will be the new Ambassador Volunteer Coordinator.

Another example is the development of a quiet kit, which — in partnership with Environmental Services — will be delivered to each patient admitted into UH beginning this summer. Acknowledging that hospitals can often be noisy, but that rest is a priority, patient and family advisors helped design the contents and packaging.

Keith and Dr. Johnson
Keith Gran and Timothy Johnson, M.D., senior associate dean of clinical affairs (l-r).

If you have ideas on how to improve the patient experience or questions about the new PFCC structure, please email them to or contact your PFCC Volunteer Coordinator.

Note: Article adapted from a Michigan Medicine Headlines piece.

Goodbye Dear Friend: Honoring Celeste Castillo Lee

Celeste and Daniel Lee

It is with great sadness that we share the news that Celeste Castillo Lee passed away Feb. 9, 2017. Celeste served as Michigan Medicine’s first PFCC Program Manager for Adult Services. Under her leadership, PFCC’s mission grew to encompass University Hospital, the Frankel Cardiovascular Center, Comprehensive Cancer Center and Ambulatory Services.

Celeste was 51 when she passed, after surviving more than 30 years of kidney failure brought on by the autoimmune disease vasculitis and having undergone peritoneal dialysis and hemodialysis and a kidney transplant.

Many of our advisors, peer mentors and staff will remember Celeste for her incredible perseverance and her ability to utilize her compassion for the good. Alongside our advisors, and in partnership with staff, Celeste worked tirelessly to imbed PFCC best practices and initiatives throughout Michigan Medicine.

Celeste was integral in growing the volunteer advisory and peer mentor program from the time she started working at Michigan Medicine with a couple dozen advisors in 2012 to nearly 200 advisors when she stepped down in 2015. During her tenure, she helped start Patient Family Advisory Committees for University Hospital, Dexter Clinic, Rad/Onc and West Ann Arbor Clinic.

In addition to her role at Michigan Medicine, Celeste served as a faculty member at the Institute for Patient and Family Centered Care, board member and chair of the Patient and Family Partnership Council for the Kidney Health Initiative, and a member of the Phase I National Patient Advisory Council for PCORnet. Here is an interview on Celeste’s work and wisdom on PFCC: Celeste Lee on the Power of Patient Engagement.

Earlier this year, Celeste was awarded the American Association of Kidney Patients Medal of Excellence for her contributions. The American Society of Nephrology (ASN) has created the Celeste Castillo Lee Endowed Lectureship. Held annually during Kidney Week, the Celeste Castillo Lee Endowed Lectureship will provide an opportunity to recognize the patient as an integral member of the research and clinical team. The Michigan Medicine PFCC Program has established the Celeste Castillo Lee Peer Mentoring Award, to be given annually to two peer mentors. Finally, the Kidney Health Initiative created a tribute video in Celeste’s memory which can be viewed here.

In addition to her 35 years of work in patient advocacy, Celeste will be remembered for her contagious laughter, welcoming smile, and inspirational ideas. Our program has adopted one of Celeste’s favorite quotes as its mantra – these wise words of Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

By Melissa Cunningham, Volunteer Coordinator

Transplant patients, mentors share personal stories

By Carsten Ramcke, PFCC Peer Mentor

Donor panelWhen Megan Podschlne contacted Michigan Medicine’s HITS (Health Information Technology & Services) department she ended up on a much different path than she started.

“I was talking to HITS about developing an educational mobile app for our kidney transplant program and one of their representatives from the Documentation & Publishing department contacted me about creating a book of patient stories.”

Podschlne, a Project Manager in the Michigan Medicine Transplant Center, was immediately intrigued.  Not only had the HITS department been successful with three previous ‘personal stories’ publications, but with the kidney program being the largest organ transplant program at U of M, it seemed a natural fit.

“We thought it would have the greatest impact,” Podschlne recalls.  “We then started working with social workers, physicians, and nurses to identify patients who had an interesting story to tell.”

The reaction from patients was a positive one.  Since reaching out to candidates in December 2016 Megan has received nearly 20 stories from kidney transplant patients representing diversity in diagnosis, age, race and background. Several of the stories feature PFCC Advisors and Peer Mentors.

“Our authors seem to be very excited over the opportunity to share their story” Podschlne declares.  “We hope [the publication] will help patients, friends, and family members understand the process of transplantation by hearing from individual experiences.”

Podschlne continues to work with the Documentation & Publishing Department of HITS as the book enters the editing phase (even as she continues to develop the mobile app).  Her hope is to see the book published and available on Amazon for purchase in the Fall, providing another opportunity for patients and families to learn and understand the challenges and opportunities they face as they consider transplantation.

In addition to the book, the Transplant Center held a successful event May 7 featuring PFCC volunteers telling their stories, titled the Facts and Myths of Living Donation. Pictured here is participant and Living Donor Peer Mentor Brian Martindale with his kidney recipient.

First-ever Patient Experience Expo a success

Expo photo
Patient Avery Parker is greeted by therapy dog Anna and Lindsay Bona of Spiritual Care. Avery’s mother, Amber, is a PFCC Advisor for Mott.

On Wednesday, June 21, hundreds of faculty, staff, PFCC Advisors, patients and family members lined up outside the University Hospital dining rooms to learn about improving the patient experience at Michigan Medicine. At the first-ever Patient Experience Expo — sponsored by the Office of Patient Experience — units and departments had the chance to show how they support patients and families through the work they perform every day. Departments such as Spiritual Care, the Guest Assistance Program (GAP) and the Lift Team set up booths to provide information about their services.

“To see all these departments come together in one place, it gives you a great perspective on how many services Michigan Medicine provides,” said Brittany Nix, a member of the Lift Team.  “Employees aren’t exposed to every department on a daily basis so getting to know them in a setting like this will allow all of us to do our job better and help our patients in more meaningful ways.”

Next year’s event plans to be even bigger and better. The second annual Patient Experience Expo is scheduled for April 24, 2018 in the Towsley Triangle.

Second Annual FCVC’s Innovation Challenge Scheduled


Submission process starts Aug. 1

Following the great success of the initial Frankel Cardiovascular Center (FCVC) Clinical Innovation Challenge last December, the FCVC is pleased to announce that the second annual Innovation Challenge Event will take place on Oct. 26, with the submission process opening on August 1.  The purpose of the Challenge is to give every person, regardless of their affiliation, an opportunity to submit ideas to make improvements within the FCVC, with a particular emphasis on improving the quality of care for FCVC patients.

Last year, 36 unique ideas and proposals were submitted, five finalists selected and a dedicated group of the FCVC’s ICU nurses and technicians, along with members of the physical therapy department, were the first winners.  The team’s vision of helping to facilitate increased mobility for patients in the CVICU is well under way with an award of $100,000 which was used to purchase 18 Livengood Mobility Aides.

Everyone—advisors, patients, families, physicians, nurses, front line administrative staff—is invited to take part in the 2017 Innovation Challenge.  The submission process will open on August 1 and close on August 31.  Five finalists will again be selected to present their “Shark Tank” pitches at the Challenge Event on Oct. 26.

The FCVC hopes you will be considering your own ideas and then watch for the launch of the submission process on August 1.  For more information, contact Jamie Beach at or visit the Innovation Challenge website.

By Diane Drago, PFCC Advisor

PFCC Advisors ‘Act Out’ in Social Work Simulations

simulation.jpgPFCC Advisors Scot Cannell and Gary Evans (pictured upper left) and Allen Woodford served as actors for the UM Interprofessional Education Center during the 2017 winter term. Students view and analyze the simulations through a four screen live-streaming video.

Dan Fischer, former Director of Child & Family Life/Spiritual Care/Mott Community Relations & Adjunct Clinical Assistant Professor, led a group of fellows working on a project to develop a simulation to add to the Team Based Decision Making Course offered on campus through the health sciences schools.

The advisors acted out scenarios involving care to an older adult and the legal issues around guardianship and power of attorney. The simulations took place every Wednesday from January through mid-April.