I recently had the pleasure to take a bucket-list trip to South Africa with my family. Ostensibly, I was there to attend a board meeting of the Worldwide Hospice Palliative Care Alliance in Durban. Of course, I had to take the opportunity to travel around this magnificent country. I was humbled by the massive disparities between rich and poor in Durban and simply awestruck by the wildlife at the Cape of Good Hope and the power of the Zambezi River and Victoria Falls.
However, no moment was as impactful as the one I captured in the photograph above. The guide explained how rare it is to see a cheetah, let alone to see four gathered in one place. But what was most amazing about this moment came from what you can’t see. To the left of the adolescent cheetahs sits an airstrip. Three of the cheetahs are transfixed by an airplane and activity on the runway—much like my own kids. The cheetah on the right has her siblings’ backs, both literally and figuratively. She is not letting herself get distracted and appears acutely aware of the hungry predators lurking in the distance off camera, including a pride of lions and a female leopard.
As I study the cheetahs today, I wonder if we are at a similar inflection point in our own world. Do we clearly see the threats and opportunities? We tend not to focus enough on the actual threats that are lurking just beyond what is easy to see and feel, but that which surrounds us and divides us. Tax status, geography, medical specialty, discipline, political persuasion—these are the distractions that the cheetahs on the left obsess over. The cheetah on the right is looking a bit further out, worried about real threats and actively planning to turn future threats into opportunities.
As I reflect on this scene, I am struck by many of the insights that Michael Burcham shared with us during his plenary presentation at April’s Management and Leadership Conference. He addressed some of the disruptors that are affecting all health care providers– many of those involving technology. Based on his experience, he shared concerns that we as a field are missing important signals that are playing out in front of us right now. For those not able to attend the last MLC, Michael’s plenary presentation, TheFuture of Healthcare, is available to the membership free-of-charge on NHPCO’s E-OL , our online learning portal.
Additionally, Michael is serving on NHPCO’s Advisory Council – a new group of experts and thought-leaders that pulls from both within and outside of our professional community. So we will continue to benefit from his knowledge and experience.
I love this picture because of what it says about life—both personally and professionally. Love each other, don’t obsess over the immediate crisis, and look a bit further out to get some perspective. In this one moment, I feel a bit more clarity about our mission here. Let the ones whose aim is not rooted in person-centered, interdisciplinary care be the cheetah on the left. Through all of our differences and challenges let us be the cheetah on the right.
By Edo Banach, JD
President and CEO
National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization