Meet Diane Sands, our new Patient Education and Well-Being Manager who is approaching innovation from a different angle. Over the last 4 months, she has worked to design an integrative health program that recognizes the emotional well-being and educational counseling needs of House Clinic patients and their families as they work through the onset of hearing loss, new diagnoses, or upcoming surgeries and postoperative recovery. Made possible by a grant from QueensCare, Diane’s program launches this month! Read our interview with Diane to learn more about the array of support services and resources that she is offering and why better regard for the mental health of our patients is the way of the future for quality healthcare.
What are your title and responsibilities?
I am the Patient Education and Well-Being Program Manager for the House Institute Foundation. I was brought on board in April of this year to build a program supporting the emotional and educational needs of our patients in the Clinic, particularly those that may not have or know how to access support systems. The goal is to build a program of value and positive consequence and package it for utilization in other venues.
What keeps you coming into work every day? What do you value most about your work?
I work with a passion fueled by purpose and love creating opportunities for those that may not know how to advocate or plan for themselves. The Patient Education & Well-Being program is just about to roll out, so I cannot cite the patient experience yet, but the program is built upon years of experience in advocacy, support, and community outreach, proven over time. The team approach at the Foundation makes it very easy to collaborate and share ideas and I’m grateful to be working in this type of environment. It fosters creativity, partnership, and teamwork.
To date, what professional achievement are you most proud of?
I’ve been blessed to have many wonderful experiences throughout my career in the for-profit and non-profit world of healthcare. I am driven by a sense of purpose and am most rewarded by observing the positive change and impact on the community or population that I serve. My greatest rewards are those that involve children—children who may think, behave, learn or function differently in the world and the families that care about and for them. I’ve been honored to be the creator or founding member of several 501(c)3 organizations and whether we were helping HIV+ children find a safe place to attend school or creating a program to help children challenged by neurobiological disorders process their emotions through art, movement, or writing, viewing the outcome is a sacred and very personal experience. I’ve been moved to joyful tears a handful of times, and I suppose those are my proudest moments.
Tell us about your vision for the new Patient Education and Well-being Program? What purpose does it serve and what need will it meet?
Whether a person struggles with a chronic illness or is faced with an acute change in health, the psychological spinoff can be quite large. The vision for this program is threefold: One is to reach a critically underserved community geographically close to the House Clinic. The funding for this pilot project has been provided by a generous QueensCare grant. The second is that our forward-thinking House Institute physicians saw a need to have the mental health interests of their patients brought to the table with a resource to help guide their patients to mental health support services, and the third is to build a program that can serve as a model for any community where it might land. By building a wrap-around program, we can teach our patients, of all ages and cultural backgrounds, to become advocates and case managers of their healthcare journey, generally, and their mental health needs, specifically.
What would you like to see happen or changed in the next 75 years?
I would love to see medicine, in general, evolve with a softer side. Admittedly the vision stems, in part, from the dream of becoming a pediatrician after every comforting, childhood house call. But, mental health, sadly, continues to be stigmatized. Whether it is precipitated by socio-economic or cultural factors, as medical professionals, we must continue to open the dialog making conversations about mental health just as acceptable as any other health discussion. I remember a time when we whispered about certain illnesses or disabilities – we still do or often remain silent. We all live in a very stressful world. Depression and anxiety are part of our lives and there are medical, psychological, and lifestyle methods of treating it. The first step is speaking up and eliminating the shame so prevalent around it. The silence of mental health difficulties and mental illness is a killer.
What does House, “elevating hearing science to an art” mean to you?
Art is something to be admired and can be a very personal thing. The House organization has a legacy of building relationships, creating history, and leading innovation. My hope and goal are to include the art of conversation about mental health concerns and mental health into the mix.
What effect do you hope telling your story will have on others?
I want to be a safe place to land for our patients and for co-workers. As a health educator, I am bound by HIPAA and personally have always been a confidence keeper. My hope is to open the door, one person at a time.
What do you like to do outside of work; what is your passion or hobby?
At the height of the pandemic last year, I learned to appreciate a three-mile walk in my neighborhood each evening. I am an amateur photographer, and the walks became opportunities to explore on a macro level. My son created an outdoor theatre for us, and we continue to watch movies on the patio when we can keep the mosquitos away! I love to bike and swim with my son; he challenges me to keep pushing forward. I’m Hoping to get back on the tennis court and miss dancing with a partner. I paint in oils and acrylics and love to share my home for gatherings. In my more introspective and quiet time, I write and am an avid reader.