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SEA Currents: SSV Corwith Cramer

May 04, 2020

Building Teams Starts with Building Trust

SEA Semester

Dr. Joshua Weil, W-79, wearing PPEs at Kaiser Hospital in Santa Rosa, CA, and on a recent Lindblad Expeditions trip where he periodically serves as ship’s physician.

SEA's Director of Stewardship Monica Bowman recently had the opportunity to check in with SEA Semester alumnus, Dr. Joshua Weil.  They spoke about his new position as emergency preparedness lead for the Permanente Medical Group at Kaiser Hospital in Santa Rosa, California, and how during major health and safety crises, including this time of COVID-19, he finds himself calling upon his SEA Semester experience to inform his approach to leadership, trust, and being a good shipmate.  

I’m an alum of SEA Semester (W-79), and now a full time emergency physician with the Permanente Medical Group at Kaiser Hospital in Santa Rosa. After 11 years as chief of the ED and eight years as chief of hospital operations, last December I stepped back to take a smaller role in emergency preparedness. Being EP lead involves planning and drilling for disasters that might range from active shooter to earthquake or wildfire, any of which may require evacuation of the hospital.

In 2017 I happened to be at work the night the Tubbs Wildfire ripped through Sonoma County, destroying nearly 5,000 homes - mine included, and ultimately forcing the 3 a.m. evacuation of our hospital. I assumed the role of leading the evacuation, which was obviously a stressful and anxiety-provoking time. While I never faced immediate life threats on Westward, my Sea Semester taught me to have confidence in my leadership ability and at the same time to trust in my 'mates'.  Trusting in others and setting the expectation that we all will look out for each other as we work toward a shared goal, are skills that were strengthened on board Westward and that have served me well the night of the fire and still today.

Thirty-five years after stepping off Westward, my Sea Semester experience remains one of the most important developmental experiences of my life. Out at sea, everything and everyone we depended on was right there - and only there - within the 125-foot confines of Westward.  But none of us could operate her on our own. We had to trust, and we had to look out for one and other.  Today, on the front lines of an unprecedented pandemic, I remain dependent on my shipmates, for none of us can navigate these waters without the others.  Being part of the team in the emergency department I need the nurses and technicians to watch my back as we put on our PPE. And they need to have trust in me as I outline our course of care.  Trust can only be earned working together toward a common mission, even when it's hard - whether that’s hoisting a sail through rough seas in the dark of night or running "a code" in a busy emergency department.

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