In Honor of Debra Gist

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The Alliance and CEhp community were deeply saddened upon learning of the passing of Debra Gist, MPH, FACEHP, on October 2, 2017. In the days following, some of her colleagues put their thoughts about her contributions and friendship to paper.

Ed Dellert began by writing the following:

Have you ever met one of those individuals that you just knew within a short period of time was genuinely committed to family, friends and their career passions? That was Deb Gist. While she privately fought a battle with cancer, she continued to put her family, friends and professional work before her own needs.

I came to know Deb when we were both elected to the board of directors for the Alliance for Continuing Education in the Health Professions in 2011. We shared a car ride up to Wisconsin for one of our first board retreat experiences, led by George Mejicano, MD, MS, FACEHP. We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into, but we were just excited to be a part of a movement that was changing our profession. What I learned about Deb during that ride up to Wisconsin was how important family, friends and her passion for making the CME/CE world better were. And it ran deep.  

Deb’s Family — Deb worked in different locations during her professional career, extending from Sharp HealthCare in San Diego to a top academic setting at Duke University to medical specialty societies, including the American Academy of Dermatology, to, more recently, the American Epilepsy Society. No matter where she lived or what she was doing in her career, her family was her foundation. She always talked about her family members and how happy they made her. She never forgot the power of family, even into her remaining days. If you believe that your family is made up of people and animals (she loved her horses and cats) that bring out the best in you, then Deb Gist has to have one of the best families ever. They are the people who cheered her on and truly wanted the best for her. Deb always seemed to have a million things going on, but no matter the volume of projects she might have had on her plate, the most important part of her life was her family. She always made that very clear in every conversation I had with her. I am certain that Deb made sure to thank her family, letting them know that they were the most important gift that she ever received and she embraced it every day. 

Deb’s Friends — As important as family was to Deb, her friendships were also very significant. She looked to her friends to serve as inspiration, as well as to challenge her in being a part of making a difference in our world. Deb was selective of the friends she surrounded herself with, as she sought those who shared in her standards, humor and concerns. For Deb, friends were like taking vitamins in the morning: providing her strength and energy so she could focus on giving back. Friends were yet another precious part of Deb’s life; if you had Deb as a friend, you would know that she was like a breath of fresh air on a hot stifling day.

Deb’s Career Passions — Interestingly, Deb started her career as part of the medical staff office at Sharp Memorial Hospital in San Diego, California, and then as the coordinator of CME. She knew long ago that CME/CE of the future would require patients to be partners in the educational continuum, in an effort for physicians and their healthcare team to learn how to diagnose, treat and monitor them with new technologies in an emerging digital jungle. In that little CME office, Deb worked collaboratively with Howard Robin, MD, and Joseph Green, PhD, and always served as the champion of the two most important stakeholders: the patients and the physicians. In order to be an even more valuable part of her team, she also completed a Master of Science in Public Health while she was in San Diego, always dreaming of CME being able to have a demonstrable impact on public health issues! Little did she know that later in life she would become the recipient of her own future vision. Deb also was passionate about how CME/CE could demonstrate in explicit, rigorous and meaningful ways; the learning outcomes of our accredited activity work. These learning outcomes could take on many forms, but she knew that standards and benchmarking would be critical. Instead of treating all learners alike, she challenged her teams, the organizations for which she worked and our profession to study and develop programs that were unique to the individual learner. She asked why the CME/CE community could not do more to develop adaptive curricula with achievable key outcomes that are better for patient care and the public’s health.

Deb Gist left many footprints on her family, friends and our profession in CME/CE that will never fade away. She was a leader who embraced change and the challenges that came with it, turning those challenges into opportunities for the future. Deb emphasized the importance of our educational programs to our healthcare services, the educational system and the patients that benefit from them. In Deb Gist’s honor, let’s continue her efforts forward, recognizing that family, friends and passion for our profession are the critical ingredients to achieving success.

Contributing writers:

Ed Dellert
Jann Balmer
Joe Green

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