QI Innovator Award Winner - Wanda Williams, LSSBB

Tuesday, September 23, 2014 - It is our pleasure to honor Wanda Williams, from the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department in Washington State, as a public health QI Innovator. Congratulations, Wanda! 

What makes Wanda Williams a QI Innovator? 

Wanda Williams, Quality Management Consultant of the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department in Washington State, has helped to build a quality improvement (QI) culture by leading and guiding other staff, both within and outside of her department. For the past 6 months, she has led a creative and innovative approach to bringing quality to the department’s Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD)/HIV program by facilitating multiple Kaizen workshops. Always respectful of individual staff members’ needs and work styles, Wanda empowers the STD/HIV program team members to make improvements on their own, and she shines the spotlight on their successes. She freely shares her knowledge of QI and performance management with other local health departments throughout the state and regularly provides them with extensive technical assistance and training. In April, Wanda received the department’s Outstanding Leader/Mentor award, a prestigious achievement that proves her commitment to QI and leadership. She has mentored the QI project titled Improving Whatcom County Health Department’s WIC Program Scheduling Efficiencies Using Quality Improvement Techniques (an in-progress PHQIX submission). Wanda has also demonstrated innovation, creativity, and leadership in her role as a consultant to the Washington State Public Health Performance Management Centers for Excellence. She is a member of the National Association of County and City Health Officials Performance Improvement Leaders Collaborative.

We asked Wanda to share some insights regarding challenges encountered, lessons learned, and advice about public health QI. Here's what she had to say!

Q: Describe one challenge you have encountered in conducting QI in public health and how you worked to overcome that challenge.

A: One challenge I have encountered in conducting QI in public health is buy-in—buy-in at all levels, from leadership to the front lines. I would say this is a constant challenge and is overcome through consistent, sometimes persistent, demonstration of value. The easiest way to demonstrate the value is through a project effort that removes pain points or improves efficiency and effectiveness or saves millions of dollars. However, not all projects end up being knock-it-out-of-the-park successes. The value then comes in staff better understanding their role, their work processes and how they contribute to the overall mission and vision of their program and agency. My approach to getting buy-in is to teach, build, share and support. I provide my teams with knowledge, share tools and tips to help build their understanding and confidence, acknowledge and share their successes and lessons learned and support them in continual learning and improvement. I think my work is like tossing a pebble in the lake. Each communication, training, action and project creates a ripple. One toss will not sustain the effort. My hope is to spread and share knowledge, understanding and skill within each circle of influence which builds ownership and momentum. Through learning, doing and sharing, everyone creates their own ripple to spread and create a culture of quality improvement.

Q: What is one key lesson you have learned in your experience implementing public health QI initiatives? 

A: There are so many lessons to learn. If I was to only share one, it would be to not take things personally. No matter how passionate, enthusiastic, supportive or encouraging you may intend to be, the impact of your efforts will inevitably rub someone the wrong way. Change is hard. Learning and growing can be a challenge as well. To keep it all in perspective, remember quality is a journey. We each take it at a different pace, perspective and understanding. Just dust yourself off, smile and keep moving forward. Somewhere along the way, the ripple will touch someone in a positive way.

Q: What advice would you give to public health practitioners who are new to QI?

A: My advice to newbies—enjoy it! Look at quality improvement as an ongoing adventure. You will discover new things about yourself and those you work with. You will discover passionate, creative, innovative and hardworking individuals that truly want to provide the best products and services to their customers and to be the best in what they do. This passion and drive will help fortify you when barriers, conflict, and failure come your way. Just fail forward—there is always something to learn in every improvement effort.

Congratulations, Wanda! Thank you for sharing these wonderful insights, for your demonstrated leadership in public health QI, and for being a member of the PHQIX community! 

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4Sloan's picture
Submitted by 4Sloan on

Our Food Safety and WIC staff have had the pleasure of working with Wanda on two quality improvement projects here in Whatcom County. The WIC project is currently posted as "in progress" on PHQIX. Wanda is not only an innovator, she is an amazing coach and we have learned so much from her during a recent Kaizen event. Thanks so much Wanda for helping us percolate all those good ideas to the surface!

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cgizzi's picture
Submitted by cgizzi on

Wanda, we are all so proud of you and are fortunate you're on Team TPCHD! Thanks for your great work and your insightful comments, both here in this article and as you consult with other local health departments. I'm looking forward to continue working with you to help build a quality culture here at our health department and throughout public health in Washington state and the nation. You rock!

Cindan Gizzi, MPH
Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department

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