Few understand the significance and impact of peer education better than Diane Spitz, a Program Director with VPR. With over twenty years of experience working in patient education, Diane has tried-and-true knowledge of the healthcare sector, and is always working to create programs and dialogue that are “patient-centric”. We sat down with Diane to ask why she feels so strongly about the work she does. Diane also shared her thoughts on what she sees in store for peer healthcare education in the coming years.
VPR POP: Tell us a little about yourself and your role at VPR.
DS: I was raised in a household that included my mother and five sisters, so I grew up surrounded by strong women. There was nothing we couldn’t take on together, so I’m a big believer in the power of positive thinking, which is one aspect of peer education. I have had the pleasure of being involved with patient education for over 20 years – first with rheumatoid arthritis and now with diabetes. As the Diabetes Program Director at VPR, I am always looking to expand our reach so that more and more people can realize the benefit of peer-to-peer communication.
VPR POP: What do you enjoy most about your job?
DS: Each day is a new day and not one day is ever the same. I really don’t refer to my daily work as a job, but more a passion and opportunity to help our patient speakers as they travel the country to do what they do best: help others.
VPR POP: What makes patient educators so unique?
DS: Their stories of hope, passion, motivation, and love for one another. It doesn’t take me long to be moved to tears when I think about and interact with this incredible group of individuals. Each patient holds the power in their story to make that all-important difference in another person’s life.
VPR POP: What makes peer-to-peer mentorship so unique?
DS: Peers understand one another and the journey they share together much more clearly than anyone else. To see the peer connection take shape time and time again makes me know that what we do at VPR POP is unique and has amazing value to patients, their families and their health outcomes.
VPR POP: Tell us about a lesson your learned that has helped you be successful professionally.
DS: My grandfather was a man of integrity and compassion – something he showed me at a very young age and something I hope I have also instilled in my son, Ben. One of my Grandpa’s favorite quotes is by John Wesley: “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.”
And I’ll add – have an attitude of never giving up – there is generally a solution if you stop long enough to look at your options and have the courage to act on them.
Tell us about a mentor or a role model of yours who has helped shape you professionally.
When I was first out in the work force, I worked with a former attorney, Sam Anderson. He was the Director of Illinois Teachers’ Retirement System and taught me the importance of linear thinking in a
challenging situation. As an attorney, he used this thinking to build his cases one step at a time. This has been something that I have carried through my life so that when there is a challenge, you clearly identify what that challenge is, look at all the variables available to help solve the challenge and then move forward with the variable you believe is best. Does it always work? For the most part, yes. When it does not, you do have a basis for your action and can course correct as necessary without starting over. Thanks Sam!
How do you see patient education programs growing and changing in the next five to ten years?
I believe in the all-encompassing value of patient education programs, and anticipate the growth to accelerate in the next five to ten years. What that will look like will be as varied as there are opportunities for patient education. As we continue to see our world evolve digitally, it will be imperative that we never lose sight of the trust, hope and motivation that takes place when peers interact with one another face-to-face.
There is much in the life sciences industry now about “patient centricity”. VPR POP is focused on taking that from a buzz phrase to something truly actionable. We are putting patient centricity in action to make differences in the lives of patients and care partners. It’s what we do best!