Meet our new chief epidemiologist and chief patient safety officer, Dr. Kenneth E. F. Sands. The Boston, Mass., native, who moved to Nashville weeks ago, will lead our enterprise-wide initiatives, including health services research, infection prevention, patient safety, and provide leadership for HCA’s Patient Safety Organization. He comes to us with a distinguished record in patient safety and infection prevention, which has led to numerous publications.

Here, we learn a little more about Dr. Sands’ career journey, the advice he’d give to his 23-year-old self and what excites him most about joining HCA.

Name:  Kenneth Sands

Job title: Chief Epidemiologist and Chief Patient Safety Officer

What is epidemiology? Epidemiology is the process of analyzing trends to understand what causes things to happen.

Hometown: Boston, Mass.

Education:  Colgate University, Dartmouth Medical School, Harvard School of Public Health

Years at HCA: 0.05.   I am brand new to HCA and have a lot to learn! Everyone at HCA has been terrific about welcoming me and orienting me to the institution and to Nashville.

Life before HCA:  I was chief quality officer at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, a teaching hospital affiliated with Harvard Medical School in Boston, Mass. I lived in a suburb outside of Boston and cheered for the Red Sox, the Bruins, and the Patriots.

What prompted you to join HCA?   I wanted to have the opportunity to improve safety for patients for multiple institutions, and thus have much broader impact than is possible working at a single institution.   Also, because of its size, HCA has the ability to perform research on healthcare delivery, thereby providing lessons for the rest of the nation.

Explain what you do in 140 characters or less… Support facilities understand performance, improve safety, establish best practice & create new knowledge 4 nation abt best clinical practice

What gets your workday off to a good start?  A smile from my administrator, Bettilynn Ford.

What’s something interesting about your job that people don’t know?  HCA has a partnership with Harvard to work together on studying clinical practice and publishing findings.

You are inspired by….Currently, I am inspired by the commitment to excellence among the members of my group at HCA.  We have a tremendous group of individuals with deep expertise in diverse fields, such as biostatistics, pharmacy operations, research study design, epidemiology, analytics, project management, and medical staff governance.  Everyone brings their “A” game every day!

What’s your go-to app on your phone? “sworkit,” a fitness app that makes sure I get at least a little bit of exercise every day.

What is your philosophy of care?  I believe the quality of care should be judged on the basis of the entire patient experience, which means we improve health while avoiding harm, and maintaining respect and dignity for the patient. This may all seem self-evident, but unfortunately, this construct is violated too often. Patient safety has only received serious attention for the last 15 years or so. The importance of maintaining patient respect and dignity has gotten even less attention, but I believe it is a key component of care and healing, and that in coming years you will see more formal efforts to measure and improve the practice of respect.

What advice would you give your 23-year old self?  Keep your mind as open as possible.  Don’t make snap judgments. Take advantage of every opportunity. Buy stock in that new company Apple that just went public.

What book/TV show/ or podcast do you love right now, and why?  I recently read the book “Grit” and I loved it.  The core message of the book is that passion and perseverance matter much more than innate ability. It is a very optimistic and motivating message!

What’s the one thing patients can do to help to ensure his/her safety?   Ask questions to make sure you understand your care plan. If something does not seem right, speak up!

What is your vision for epidemiology/patient safety at HCA?   My vision is that HCA uses its enormous size, its high level of staff engagement, and deep analytical capabilities to make care more reliable than anywhere else in the world, and in the process provide lessons for others on how to do the same.

What is your favorite spot in Nashville so far?   Hillsboro Village.  We are living there temporarily until we find a permanent home.    It is charming and walkable.  Try the Grilled Cheeserie: besides the sandwiches, they make a great beet salad!

What are you passionate about outside of work?   I am most passionate about my family, which includes a wonderful wife (Joan, a social worker), two great children (Trevor, 23, and Kristen, 21), and a miniature poodle (Tucker, 13).   After that, it’s probably golf, for which I maintain passion despite the curious lack of improvement!

What excites you most about being at HCA?  I am excited by the dynamic environment that permeates HCA. There is an amazing diversity of talent, innovation, and commitment to the mission of improving lives. It is unique.