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Christian Pettker, MD, honored with quality and safety award

October 12, 2015

Christian Pettker, M.D., who specializes in high-risk pregnancies, is the second recipient of Yale Medical Group’s new Excellence in Quality and Safety Award.

“We cannot think of a Yale physician who is more deserving of this award,” said Hugh Taylor, M.D., chair of the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Services, who joined several colleagues in nominating Dr. Pettker. “There is no doubt that Chris’s name is synonymous with the patient safety in obstetrics in the Yale New Haven Hospital System.”

Dr. Pettker is chief of obstetrics at the Yale School of Medicine and Yale-New Haven Hospital, and medical director of both the labor and birth and maternal special care units at YNHH. An associate professor, he joined the Yale faculty after completing his medical degree at Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons, his residency at New York Presbyterian Hospital and a three-year maternal-fetal medicine fellowship at Yale.

Maternal-fetal medicine is especially high-risk partly because it is the only branch of medicine where doctors much consider the needs of two patients at one time, Dr. Pettker said. “Something I do for a fetus may put the mother at risk, or something I do for the mother may put the fetus at risk,” he explained. “It’s intellectually challenging to balance the two, and it’s emotionally satisfying to help the family through a difficult time.”

His experiences as a high-risk obstetrician led to his role as a safety leader overseeing Yale’s comprehensive obstetric patient safety program, which aims to improve patient care by standardizing treatment methods, and encouraging communication and collaboration between physicians and departments. “A safety and teamwork culture is not something you can just implement, then walk away from and expect to continue,” he said. “The really hard thing is the daily work you need to do to keep it going.”

Dr. Pettker is frequently asked to speak about Yale’s program to local, national and international audiences after leading a major effort to partner with YNHH and Yale’s malpractice carrier that pursued a multifaceted approach to assess and improve Yale’s safety climate, and reduce adverse outcomes. “This initiative required an extraordinary amount of teamwork and coordination of university and hospital resources,” Dr. Taylor said. “Through it all, Chris championed this effort. Amazingly, the Yale program is the only program of its kind to have documented improvements in adverse outcomes, safety culture and liability climate, and as a result has become emulated by units across the United States.”

The award was presented at Yale Medical Group’s 2nd Annual Yale Quality & Safety Leadership Symposium on October 7. Based on nominations submitted by Dr. Pettker’s colleagues, he was selected for the award by a committee comprised of clinical faculty and senior leadership representatives from both YMG and YNHH. He will receive a framed citation, a monetary award of $3,000 and his name on a publicly displayed plaque.

Submitted by Mark Santore on October 12, 2015