Since 1977, Boston Children's Hospital has celebrated our Black Achievers, annually recognizing two exceptional employees for their professional accomplishments and service to the community. The year's winners - nominated by their managers and selected by the MLK Observance Committee - were honored at the hospital's annual Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Observance.
When you spend most of your days inside a hospital, it's easy to forget how disruptive doctor's appointments can be. Even when the appointment is for something as straightforward as a checkup, it often means a parent needs to step away from the office, drive to the hospital – which is no easy task in the Longwood Medical Area – find parking and then find their way to the clinic. When a child has a complex condition or needs to see multiple specialists, things get very complicated very quickly. Left to their own devices, a family could find themselves scheduling and traveling to hospital appointments several times a week or month. It's the job of the Practice Liaison Program team to take some of that stress away from the parents.
"If you need to see 20 specialists, we can coordinate all of that," explains Diane Odom, the program's manager and 2015 Black Achiever. "We do the backend so that by the time we come back to them, they just have the appointment. They don't know all the steps we had to go through or how long we've been on hold."
When Odom joined Boston Children's in 2004, the Liaison Program didn't exist. She spent the first months of her Boston Children's career in the ambulatory float pool before moving on to help with scheduling in the physician relations department, where her organizational and managerial skills, as well as her person-centered approach, earned her the respect and accolades of her colleagues and manager. So when Boston Children's leadership decided to pilot a new Practice Liaison Program in response to demands from referring physicians for a smoother scheduling experience, Odom was a natural choice.
When Odom signed on to pilot the program, it served just five practices. Today, its 16-member team schedules 25,000 appointments a year and serves a network of 445 referring providers, clustered around 117 practices. "The amount of change that we've asked her to take on is huge," Kevin Pawl, MS, CMPE, director of Patient Access, says. "She doesn't like to be in the limelight, but she deserves it," Pawl explains. "She's working so hard and sets such a great example; she deserves the recognition."
Pawl, who nominated Odom, isn't the only one to have noticed Odom's humility and warmth. Her management style leans towards collaboration rather than delegation. And as her team explains, they never have reason to wonder what's going on; Odom always keeps them in the loop, something they say has helped the team maintain its fast growth without sacrificing quality. Ironically, as much as Odom shies away from the spotlight, she persistently shines it on her team members. That, at least is Jessica Riley's experience.
Riley, who now supervises the team, joined the liaison program six years ago and, as she explains it, was perfectly content with her role as practice liaison. It wasn't until Odom encouraged – Riley would say pushed – her to step into a supervisory role within the growing team that Riley recognized her own managerial abilities. As Riley sees it, it's that person-centered focus that best explains Odom's success. "I've never seen her have a mean moment with anyone," she says. "She will always stay committed to helping everyone no matter how busy she is. I know her door is always open."
Odom extends the same courtesy and respect to the families she and her team help. "I love hearing a mom on that phone who's happy that she has an appointment at a day and a time that works for her," she says. "I'm just happy for the families because I know that they're anxious. You never know what a family is dealing with."