Archive for the ‘Music’ category

The Smurfs and Culture

July 29th, 2011

The other day, I was imagining a conversation between our U.S. elected officials about the Smurfs.  On one side of the aisle, the rhetoric would go something like this: “I believe that Poppa Smurf  represents Karl Marx. He is not the leader of the Smurfs but an equal who is admired by the others for his age and wisdom.”  Then they might say, “And Brainy Smurf represents Trotsky, as he is the only one who comes close to matching Papa’s intellect.  He wears round glasses, is often isolated, ridiculed for being too professorial and is even ejected from the village for his ideas.”

Photo Credit: AP/Richard Drew

Furthermore they might add, “The smurfs don’t have private property, have adopted a collective-style economy and no individual Smurf is represented as either superior or inferior to others.” Someone would yell out, “They probably even have healthcare for everyone!” Consequently, the conclusion from one side of the aisle would be that the Smurfs are Socialists and are destroying the fabric of our society.

Then the other side might say something like: “Gargamel represents capitalism and embodies all the negative attributes associated with that economic system, such as greed, ruthlessness and the pursuit of personal gratification.”  “Gargamel is the quintessential symbol of Wall Street and will take his billions in tax cuts but never create even one job,” this side would say. At the same time, they might surmise that, “Azrael represents the worker in the ruthless, free-market state that is Gargamel’s house, and his union must be busted!”  Their final conclusion would be that, “The wealthy are taking all of our money and destroying the middle class.”

Is it any wonder we can’t get a debt ceiling bill?

One of my last professional trumpet playing jobs, “Smurfs on Ice,” was nearly 25 years ago. So, Brainy, Jokey, Grouchy, Greedy, and Stinky were all part of my early years, and now they are coming back, but the world is not the same!  So, be careful Smurfettes. Don’t invest in the market, real estate or dot.coms.  Try to avoid those outrageous credit card interest rates.  Don’t, whatever you do, don’t believe what the heads of the big banks and insurance companies are saying, and, for goodness sakes, buy gold, or maybe buy precious blue stuff.

When I was a kid, I was on journey to learn. So, when my dad bought me a box of vocabulary words and helped me learn ten new words every night, it wasn’t because he wanted us to grow up and be rich.  To him, the most important thing that he could do for his children was to make sure that they got an education.  He was all about the awareness that comes from exposure to information.

It started for me as a simple challenge to read the Bobbsey Twins books, and then the Hardy Boys, and from there, works by Mark Twain, Shakespeare, Dickens, Poe, Roth, Hemmingway and Tolstoy. Going through life without all of these friends would have been an empty and lonely journey. I’ll never forget when my brother, a young teacher at the time, introduced me to his classical record collection.  Yes, I was a trumpet player, but when I discovered Mahler, Beethoven, Mozart, Bach, Wagner, Brahms, Handel, Stravinsky, Chopin, Mendelssohn, Berlioz, Bartok and Sibelius, my life was changed forever.  Between the written word and the music, the mysteries, joys, challenges and humanness that is life became more apparent to me every day.

We have migrated away from anything but basic education and our favorite pastimes are video games, celebrity magazines and reality TV shows. Maybe that’s why we seem to have lost our way in this country.  We no longer embrace a culture of open mindedness, understanding and compromise.  Is it any wonder our U.S. Representatives can’t work together?  Maybe they are simply unenlightened…Maybe they all need to spend some time with the Smurfs and read a few blue books.

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Healing and the Mind Revisited

April 8th, 2009

I’m working in Chicago right now, feeling a little overwhelmed by a phone call that I had from one of my very dearest friends about his impending future, about my son-in-law in Baghdad and his family who are living without him at home, and also about the challenges that we individually and collectively face both nationally and internationally during this time of economic crisis and overall unrest. During the midst of my thoughtful contemplation, I received an E-mail from a very dear friend, Savery, with a link to open. I was so moved by it that I decided to post the link on Facebook.

Almost immediately after it went out, my friend, Dr. Dean Ornish, sent me this follow up link from Bill Moyer’s show. For those of you who don’t know this about me, the Bill Moyers series, “Healing and the Mind” was my inspiration for the Planetree Philosophy that we implemented at Windber all those years ago. For some reason, he and I keep intersecting, and here we are again.

So, thanks, Savery, Dean, and Bill, but most of all, thanks to the amazing man who created this wonderful experience that you are all about to have.

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NickJacobs.org???

April 2nd, 2009

Let me open this blog with a little housekeeping chore. Because I’ve retired from being a hospital president (Yes, they replaced me with two great people, count ‘em, two.) , I’d like to change the name of this thing. It’s not that I’ve established a P-Diddy-type Twitter following where 100,000 human beings are waiting with baited breath to see what my next move will be, it just doesn’t seem right to keep calling myself a hospital president. We know who reads this thing, and we are grateful to our loyal, talented, and brilliant followers. We also know that we can link the old blog names to get you here. So, regardless of what you typed, or what gets Googled, our genius social media maven & webmaster, Michael Russell, can help to bring you home to this site.

Okay, so as a transformational advisor, a broker of sorts, most people with whom we have consulted have described me as a person who can fix things that are broken before they actually break. Maybe we should call it the “Break it if it’s not already fixed” blog. I’d love it if it was a name that would generate millions of hits and companies would fight to advertise on it.

My first thought was to use nickjacobs in the title because there is a Nick Jacobs on Facebook who teaches Aboriginal people in Australia, and he seems popular. There is another Nick Jacobs who is a professional organist, and one who is an athlete. There’s a Nick Jacobs who is a consultant and another a paramedic in London, one who had a blog who is a yachtsman, there’s my son, the commercial real estate broker, and finally, there’s a Nick Jacobs who does pornographic movies who is not my son. Actually, that Nick Jacobs’ followers would probably be the most disappointed by this blog.

Since the .com version of nick jacobs was already taken by some guy in England, we captured nickjacobs.org, and that will work for right now.

If you have any ideas, however, that you think would really rock the blogspere, let us know and we’ll check with our domain registrar to see if it is available. In fact, if you are the winner of a Name Nick’s Blog Contest, I’d be happy to consult for free BY PHONE for at least one hour of brainstorming with you about the topic of your choice: music, healthcare, proteomics, teaching, PR/Marketing, the travel business, or even physician recruitment.

Remember, Hospital Impact is already taken, and, because my last three consulting jobs have been with a newspaper, a nonprofit arts oragnization, and a chain of hotels, we don’t want to think too restrictively. Gotta earn a little money, too.

When we ran the breast center, we found that the website got more hits than anyone could imagine. The problem was that the readers were mostly thirteen-year-old boys who probably weren’t too interested in running a hospital. After Miss America had visited us, the hits went up exponentially when those two searches were combined. Somehow, I don’t think that Nick Jacobs’ Breast Center for Miss America would probably get me the type of following I’m currently hoping to attract. On the other hand?

A very good friend recently asked me to write a brief bio about what my new life is like, and it struck me that it is very much like my old life but without any restrictions. This is what I wrote:

While teaching junior high school instrumental music in the early 1970’s, Nick Jacobs made an extraordinary discovery. He learned that, by empowering his students and surrounding them with positive influences, he no longer was providing a service or even an experience for them.

What this entirely unique teaching style resulted in was a method for helping to transform students. By providing with both passion and commitment the tools needed by them to undertake their journey, his involvement with the students became a means of dramatically helping them to make whatever positive life changes they were seeking.

It was during that early period in his career that he also discovered that this formula could work to positively change lives in almost any aspect of living as he ran an arts organization, a convention bureau, and finally a hospital and research institute.

Since that time he has dedicated his personal work to helping others make their lives better, and that is exactly what he is doing in his position as an international executive consultant with SunStone Consulting, LLC.

Maybe that will give you something to chew on? Okay, something on which to chew.

SunStone Consulting. With more than 20 years experience in executive hospital leadership, Nick has an acknowledged reputation for innovation and patient-centered care approaches to health and healing.

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How Do You Keep the Music Playing?

February 9th, 2009

When civilizations are evaluated, there are numerous indicators that are used to demonstrate their relevance, their contributions to the world, and their donations to the future. As a young musician, one of my college professors predicted that our culture would begin to decline as a military, economic, and artistic world power. He pointed toward what he described as primary indicators of this decay, and he saw the decline of music in our schools as one of those indicators.

Overall, this professor was more than concerned about the role of public education in the future of our country and once described our form of public education as an experiment that would eventually prove to be ineffective. He saw the effort as a misguided attempt to squeeze all different shapes, sizes, and types of personalities, intellects, and skills into a single classroom, which he called a “melting pot of mediocrity.”

That professor also used to teach us about the writings of Marshall McLuhan from the University of Toronto who indicated that television would change the manner in which we lived our lives. His book The Medium is the Message made us all begin to look at the influence of television on society.

McLuhan described the fact that in visual space we used to think of things as continuous and connected. In either the auditory senses or the sense of touch, there are only resonances. There is no real continuity in our other senses. The fact that we have become the visual wo/man, through television, and that visual orientation has produced a collage that is neither continuous nor connected, has resulted in the reality that even our visual perceptions have lost their continuity.

It is well-known that music nurtures both the right and left sides of the brain, and that those who study music have intellectual opportunities that literally may not exist for those who don’t. The challenge is not just one of music as entertainment, but music as part of our intellectual training. So the question is, as in the James Ingram song lyric, “How do we keep the music playing?”

Young music teacher Nick Jacobs meets musical hero Maynard Ferguson What does this all mean? In 1972, my professor indicated that we were leaning toward a different type of society that would learn, participate, and act in a different way. One of his greatest fears though was that, due to this lack of continuous connection, those who would take charge of our educational systems would not recognize the importance of music as part of education and that music would begin to be downgraded, minimized, and even dropped from public education. Thus reading, writing, arithmetic, and the arts became reading, writing, and test scores.

If we look at the dramatic decline in participation in music education over the past 30 years, he was not far from wrong. The answer to the question of how this has impacted us as a society may not be totally clear for a few decades, but as we look across the overall educational landscape and see these chasms of deprivation from exposure to the arts that already exist, it seems relatively obvious that we have and will pay the price for ignoring those subjective, intellectually stimulating programs that spawn creativity and lead to new and better ways to form our futures.

Remember, from science fiction comes science, from dreams come creations, and from fertile minds come our professional careers. The high-quality drama teacher, vocal instructor, or orchestra director who helped many of us find our way to where we are today is many times not employed anymore, and last week we saw the arts cut once again from the stimulus package. In 1987, I read that more physicians had studied music as a discipline than any other single concentration in both high school and undergraduate work. Will tomorrow’s physicians be nurtured by music, and if not, at what cost to society?

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In Their Own Words: Patients, staff and physicians on their experiences at Nick’s Planetree hospital

October 5th, 2008

View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: hospital medical)
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Quality of Care

July 31st, 2008
Back in the 70′s, competitive marching bands came into vogue in Western Pennsylvania. Let me explain the before and after of this phenomenon: Before there were competitions, bands were made up of nearly 10 times more students than they typically have today. My bands ranged in size from 120 to 185 students. Once competition came into play, the borderline students were not able to survive. Consequently, it is not unusual now to have 20 students or less in a band.

Steelcity_border

What’s happening in medicine and in health care overall? The Government is taking a three-pronged approach to improve quality in health care:

1. They are pushing quality through public reporting. (Check a website near you.)

2. Enforcing quality through the False Claims Act. (Check a prison near you.)

3. Incentivizing quality through payment reform. (Check a checkbook near you.)

Senator Chuck Grassley is quoted as saying, “Today, Medicare rewards poor quality care. That is just plain wrong, and we need to address this problem.”

HMO’s are currently embracing “pay for performance” plans for physicians and hospitals. Medicare is introducing value-based purchase plans. Medicare is proposing the linking of quality outcomes to physician payments.

As I have written before, hospitals will no longer be paid for hospital acquired conditions. That seems like a rather simple fix, but to appropriately determine if the condition was not acquired at the hospital, extensive testing must be added pre-admission at considerable costs to the hospitals.

James G. Sheehan, Medicaid Inspector General of New York said, “We are reviewing assorted sources of quality information on your facility to see what it says and if it is consistent. You should be doing the same.”

Except for the financial implications, not unlike my competitive band story, the goal was to work toward perfection. The public reporting of quality of care is intended to:

1. Correct inappropriate behavior

2. Identify overpayment’s

3. Deny payments

KirkOgrosky
The False Claims Act, on the other hand has different goals. When asked how he viewed the False Claims Act, Kirk Ogrosky, U.S. Deputy Chief for Health Care Fraud said, “You will see more and more physicians going to jail.” I guess the prisoners will be receiving better care.

Where’s it all going? Competitive band. Will it improve health care delivery? Probably, for the patients who can find the few docs and hospital that will be left? I recently had a conversation with a young computer specialist who took care of physician practices. He said, “Doctors and hospitals haven’t figured it out yet, but they are simply becoming data entry centers for ‘Big Brother’ as the facts and figures are accumulated to be used against them any way the payers decide to move forward.”

Looking back at the school year that included gym class twice a week for the entire year, rich courses in music and art, and remembering a time when priorities included those classes intended to make every student well rounded, we have to ask, “Is education today better?

Maybe this is all too complicated to get our arms around, but if there are 78 million Baby Boomers, and the Medicare Trust Fund is heading toward bankruptcy, then we probably will see every rule in the book being applied to keep from paying out money, because there is simply not enough money to go around.

Will health care improve? Once we understand that technology is not the end all and cure all that creates healing; once we endorse prevention, wellness, optimal healing environments, and systems approaches to health and wellness, health care will improve. I’ll bet you that it will have very little to do with the rules that are unfolding right now and much more to do with the creation and acceptance of a National Health Policy.

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