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  May 8, 2001

Health Center Column
Too often, organizations are too busy for celebration, but on May 25, the Health Center will launch an annual tradition of celebrating its people and their hard work and dedication.

If you work at the Health Center, before you read this column I'd like to ask you to take a moment and note on your appointment calendar the hours of 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Friday, May 25.

We are going to spend those hours doing something that is special, much needed and long overdue. We are going to take some time out, come together and celebrate a group of dedicated, hard working people who clearly deserve to be recognized. Those people are us - each and every one of us who works or volunteers at the Health Center!

Each year in mid-May we erect a large tent on our grounds to accommodate our Commencement ceremonies. Rather than dismantle the tent immediately following Commencement as we usually do, I've asked that we keep the tent intact a few extra days this year so that we can use it for our UConn Health Center Celebration Day. And so we will.

I pledge that this will be a very special gathering, indeed a happening! We'll have a wide selection of foods to appeal to almost every taste (save room for dessert), good music, some give-aways, and an absolute bare minimum of speeches. I've also been assured that, even though we'll have the tent, we will enjoy absolutely perfect spring weather on May 25. My special compliments to the folks who are taking care of that detail. So plan to come hungry and stay a while. Mingle with colleagues, enjoy the festivities, and celebrate our collective success and accomplishments.

I've already been asked why I believe we need to do this. To me, the reason is quite simple. Every organization, no matter how large or small, no matter how successful or challenged, needs to pause every so often and just say thank you to the people who make it what it is.

I contend that organizations are like families. Strong organizations, like strong families, nurture a tradition of celebration, and by doing so foster essential qualities including tolerance, warmth, respect, concern, understanding and appreciation.

By now you know that I consider the Health Center to be a family, and if you think about it, I'm sure you will agree with me that it has been too long since our family has come together to celebrate.

This was re-enforced not long ago when I had the good fortune to read a fascinating book entitled Leading With Soul. Authors Lee G. Bolman and Terrence E. Deal identify four qualities of successful leadership: love, power, authorship, and celebration.

I was especially intrigued with their views on celebration, which they say is highly necessary but too often placed on the back burner by organizations in today's rapid-fire, results-oriented climate.

The thought resonated with me and made me realize that we at the Health Center were coming up short in the manner the authors described.

There are other, more specific reasons why I believe this is a particularly appropriate time for us at the Health Center to come together in celebration. At this point, does anyone need to be reminded that the past 18 months have been a time of unparalleled difficulty for academic medical centers, and that the Health Center was by no means immune to the problem?

These challenges required, in my opinion, a tremendous amount of extra effort on the part of individuals and groups throughout this institution. People sacrificed and continually went the extra mile, putting in countless additional hours of hard work. Our workforce and volunteers did without - and without complaint - to help right the ship.

We still have a way to go before the soul will be completely smooth, but we have accomplished a great deal since late 1999. I am quite proud of what we have done together. The list would literally fill this newspaper, but people from all corners of the Health Center stepped up, took responsibility, and created much needed change that moved us to a stronger, more stable position. We need to step back for a moment and not just recognize that Herculean effort, but truly celebrate it.

Without question, I'd like to see this event blossom into an annual affair. I'm certain that after May 25, we will have suggestions and ideas to make the next one even better and more enjoyable. To that end, I encourage you to pass along your thoughts to me, Ann Smith, or any member of the UConn Cares Council.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Please be sure to join your colleagues and me on Friday, May 25 in the big tent. The celebration is for you, and us, and what we have done together.

Be peaceful.

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