‘We Messed Up’ Organizers Find the Upside of Failure
(February 2, 2024) — Since it launched less than two years ago, the “We Messed Up” Initiative has brought together students and faculty to learn about resiliency and growing from failure.
“We’ve gotten an overwhelming amount of positive feedback,” said Arya Prasad (M’25). “At one of our events, a physician came up to us and emphatically said, ‘Everyone in medicine needs to hear talks like this.’”
This February, the “We Messed Up” Initiative will hold two events. On February 6 at 6:30 p.m. in the Harvey Amphitheater, Ann Jay, MD, professor of clinical radiology and otolaryngology at Georgetown University School of Medicine, will give a talk titled “Say the F Word (Failure): Making Mistakes in an Era of Perfectionism” (RSVP here). Jay is also director for head and neck imaging and Neuroradiology Division chief at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital.
The series will hold its first Zoom-only event on February 20 at 6:30 p.m. with Sarah Kureshi, MD, MPH, associate professor and vice chair of education in the Department of Family Medicine at the School of Medicine, who will give a talk titled “Becoming A Doctor: How Resilience Defines My Medical Journey.”
“We think the popularity of our series among students right at the start of their careers speaks to the fact that this field is rife with risks of failing, and moments of feeling like you aren’t good enough,” Prasad said. “We hope that the themes that each of our speakers impart on an audience that is primarily physicians-in-training will be reflected in their future clinical practice.”
Tailoring Events to Attendees
Lectures organized as part of the “We Messed Up” Initiative start with a presentation by a speaker before a moderated discussion and an opportunity for attendees to ask questions. In addition to asking questions themselves, attendees can submit questions anonymously and up-vote questions that have been submitted to show what interests them most.
“We allot almost half of the event for audience Q&A because we noticed a lot of engagement in this part, and we try our best to ask all the questions submitted,” Prasad said.
In response to attendees’ requests, future “We Messed Up” lectures will take place in a hybrid in-person and Zoom format so more people can attend.
Redefining ‘Messed Up’
Hearing new perspectives on making mistakes has been a rewarding part of organizing the “We Messed Up” lecture series, said Tami Alade (M’25) “Each speaker has added their own perspective of what messing up means to them,” she said.
Additionally, the group has started encouraging speakers to talk about not only ways in which mistakes have impacted patient care but also how failure — both personal and systemic — has impacted them personally in their careers, and how it continues to affect the health care system.
“This new direction gives lecturers room to be more vulnerable and broadens our scope to allow for a more diverse set of panelists going forward,” Alade said.
“We believe it is important for everyone to remind themselves that failure is not a stagnant moment,” Prasad said. “It is, rather, an opportunity to reflect, cultivate resilience and, as we always say, become a better doctor.”