CGI’s Integrated Care Conference: Embracing Post-Pandemic Opportunities and Fostering Innovation in Healthcare

November 21, 2023

Reflection by Dr. Cara English, DBH, CEO of Cummings Graduate Institute for Behavioral Health Studies

CGI’s Integrated Care Conference, held October 9-11, 2023, in Chandler, AZ, was a remarkable two-day event that brought together over one hundred passionate minds from diverse backgrounds and fields. As CGI’s CEO, witnessing this intellectual congregation’s unfolding was truly inspiring.

One of the most notable aspects of the conference was the emphasis on what we have been doing differently since the pandemic, or “post-pandemic experiences.” Many of our presentations centered on pandemic exhaustion, moral injury, burnout, and workplace PTSD. Speakers illuminated what’s behind these drivers of the mass healthcare resignation and shared innovative approaches to addressing this epidemic. These sessions highlighted strategies to understand and address pandemic trauma and burnout, envision and create healthy workplace culture, and engage in opportunities that have arisen in integrated care thanks to the pandemic, including national and state funding to improve mental health and substance use care. Additionally, attendees heard thought-provoking ideas on leaving traditional healthcare roles to engage our entrepreneurial spirit.

The agenda, in general, was incredible. Each of our 35 sessions this year addressed significant opportunities for healthcare professionals to make a positive impact while caring for themselves and their colleagues. Attendees learned how to think outside the box in designing programs that truly move the needle in community health and wellness; how to improve the quality of Long-COVID patient care, address long-standing disparities in healthcare, work to create trauma-informed workplaces and care delivery systems, integrate specialty care such as pediatrics and women’s health, and work collaboratively to address health policies that act as levers to enable better health systems. We learned from our IFIC Canada partners how to bring community members to the table to co-design better care across silos, and the value of collective community action aimed at health outcomes improvements. I learned something new in each session I attended, and was thoroughly impressed with each speaker. At CGI, we often focus our efforts on reducing the educational determinants of health; that is, the care gaps that are due to a lack of training on the part of their care team. The Great Resignation has resulted in reassigning remaining staff into positions where they may feel they are being asked to practice outside their scope, a problem that is being reported across clinical, financial, and operational teams. CGI’s conference endeavored to address this problem by providing education and training that enables attendees to take new knowledge and approaches back to infuse their organizations with knowledge they can apply immediately. In speaking with almost every attendee directly, I heard over and over again that we hit the mark on this goal.

A significant highlight mentioned by many attendees was the experience of being together in the same space for two or more days with friends and colleagues we normally only see via Zoom. We often say that to be among many integrated care colleagues at conferences is like being in the “cathedral of integrated care,” and this event did not disappoint in that category! We were thrilled to welcome many of our alumni and old friends, students and faculty, and new friends to our community, including researchers, practitioners, some who traveled all the way from Australia, Finland, and Canada. Our networking time together added tremendous value to the event, and the diversity of insights on all topics resonated strongly with the audience, sparking engaging dialogues and fostering a sense of inspiration among participants.

The interactive panels and poster sessions offered a platform for attendees to actively engage and exchange ideas with the experts. The collaborative spirit and enthusiasm displayed by participants during these sessions were truly commendable. From our conference evaluation results, it was evident that the exchange of knowledge was reciprocal, enriching both speakers and attendees alike.

CGI’s conference this year was an exceptional convergence of intellect and innovation. The diverse perspectives shared and the networking opportunities created will undoubtedly have a lasting impact on our growing community of healthcare professionals and the broader field of integrated care. As we reflect on the success of this event, it reaffirms our commitment to fostering a culture of continuous learning and knowledge exchange at our esteemed institution.