Northwestern Graduate Student Leads System-wide Efforts in Quality and Safety

Northwestern Graduate Student Leads System-wide Efforts in Quality and Safety

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Northwestern University: Master's in Healthcare Quality and Patient Safety

As the Vice President of Medical Affairs and former Executive Director of the Residency Program and Designated Institutional Officer at Memorial Hospital of South Bend, IN, Dale A. Patterson, MD, is hardly a stranger to leadership roles. However, as a graduate student in Northwestern University’s Master of Science in Healthcare Quality and Patient Safety and NAHQ member, Patterson’s education and membership have enhanced his role as a leader and educator in quality and safety at Memorial Hospital. 

Patterson’s interest in Northwestern began while Executive Director of Memorial Hospital’s Residency Program and grew as he prepared to become VP of Medical Affairs, where he noticed an organizational need for physicians with formal training in quality and safety.

“I saw that there were few physicians in our organization who had formal training in healthcare quality or patient safety. We were dependent on non-physicians who didn’t have much formal training or physicians who learned on the job. I started talking about Northwestern’s program with the hospital administration and was surprised at how enthusiastic they were for me to join the program.”

Northwestern’s strong reputation and history as the nation’s first graduate program in quality and safety were pivotal as Patterson explored options for further education.

“Committing to the graduate degree helped me make a commitment to do the work. And, to have the reputation that Northwestern has—I knew it was going to be a quality education.” Patterson continued, “The people that I talked with who had been through the program or who were in the field pointed to Northwestern as a leading program.”

Beyond its reputation, Northwestern’s cohort-based model and in-person coursework fit Patterson’s preferred learning style and allowed him to strengthen his professional networks through frequent interaction with faculty and peers.

“The faculty have been amazing. I feel that I can reach out to them for anything. The other students are as well. I know that, when I go back for the next session, I will see people I know and have a relationship with. And, after graduating from the program, since we have people in different jobs and areas, we can reach out to each other and ask, ‘How does your organization deal with this?’ Those contacts are extremely important and are a reason why I wanted to do a program that was not completely online.”

Even during his first year at Northwestern, Patterson’s coursework has contributed to his role as an educator at Memorial Hospital. The Residency Program started a new curriculum and lecture series in quality and safety, where Patterson is one of the main speakers.

“The courses in the graduate program have been really helpful to frame what is really important for residents and what they need to know. It is amazing how much more comfortable I am with that, even after the first part of the program.”

Patterson has also increased his role as a quality and safety leader across Beacon Health System.

“Even in my first year in the program, my formal training in safety and quality is recognized and valued by our health system. When questions or projects come up, I’ve already been tasked with leading those system-wide efforts, working with our three different hospitals and coordinating those efforts from a medical standpoint. My graduate training has been very helpful to have that initial perspective, to know where the resources are, and to know the people to go to as we develop safety and quality programs within the organization.”

Beyond his graduate education, Patterson’s NAHQ membership helps him stay current with the field of quality and safety and bring recent research to Memorial Hospital.

“What has been most helpful have been the e-mail updates and getting a sense of the online presence of NAHQ to try to put together what the culture is, who the people are, and where I can get current information and continue to learn.”

Northwestern University is currently accepting applications for its Graduate Programs in Healthcare Quality and Patient Safety. NAHQ members are eligible to apply for a 25% tuition discount through Northwestern’s partnership with NAHQ. All programs begin July 2019. Applications are due April 28, 2019.

For more information, attend an online Information Session on February 27, 2019 at 4:30 pm. Visit for details.