While at a mentoring consulting firm, Tracie Ann Tjapkes worked with individuals at Fortune 500 companies. JABSOM is lucky that she's back home in Hawaiʻi as our Director of Organizational Resiliency.
Born and raised on Oʻahu, Tjapkes was the general manager of the physician practice at Hawaiʻi Pacific Health, which included OB-GYN, Pediatrics, and Psychiatry. That role allowed her to offer care and support to physicians. Since those physicians had roles at JABSOM, she quickly got familiar with our medical school.
After getting a taste of leadership development, Tjapkes branched out and opened her consultancy and coaching practice working with organizations in Hawaiʻi and on the continent.
We recently got to sit down with her and learn what this new role entails and why it's needed now more than ever.
Q: Let's start by talking about your role. What is an organizational resiliency director, and what will you be doing?
A: I am working with and for the students, faculty, and staff of JABSOM. We want to make it a place where people come to work with purpose, feel supported, and anticipate joy.
Q: So, how do we achieve that? What are some of the things you will be doing to get us there?
A: Right now, it's a lot of listening in the way of meet and greets. I would like to have people invite me to be with their staff so I can better understand what's important to people and what's working. Typically, when I learn that, I naturally hear people talk about their hopes and what things can improve. Who better than the people doing the work to tell us what they see as the improvements?
Q: At a time, especially post-pandemic, there was a lot of fatigue. Is this why there's such a need for a wellness and resilience director?
A: Our needs as human beings, especially in the healthcare industry, have always been there for us to think about. The caregivers caring for themselves and the pandemic highlighted and amplified that vulnerability, especially when we aren't doing it. So, if we've learned anything from the pandemic, I hope we realize that we should not only wash our hands and cover our mouths but also think about our daily and weekly practices.
Q: I know that you have been going around having meetings with different people at JABSOM and asking them what resilience means to them. Why do you ask that?
A: Because we are a diverse group of people. So it's going to have different meanings to different people. For this to have meaning, we need to hear one another speak. That being said, there will be trends. So, I'm looking for patterns and trends as well. I'm also looking for readiness because change is coming, and though change can be a very scary word, I am interested in meeting people where they are.
Q: What are some of the things you've been hearing as you've been going around our campus asking for the definition of resiliency? Has a constant theme emerged?
A: The practice of resilience appears to be happening in varying degrees, but overall encouraging with opportunities. JABSOM people talk about resilience being about good working relationships, being recognized, having the flexibility to do our work, having empathy for one another, having clear two-way communication and the right amount and frequency of communication, and being able to work with some autonomy. That really goes back to flexibility, as well as having trustworthy leaders and peers. We want to be able to work with physical and intangible safety, like emotional safety.
Q: Right now, you're gathering responses. What's the next step on this journey for us?
A: I would say the next step is truly to integrate and build upon the history that's gotten JABSOM to where it's at, to highlight what's currently going on, but also to think about where our future lays and how we are going to be a solid foundation as a community as well as individually to be able to achieve where JABSOM is headed. It can be very concrete, but that's an overarching vision, aspirational goals.
Q: What's the key to making this work?
A: For this to work, this needs to include the JABSOM "community." What I mean by that is there will be a wellbeing committee. The committee will lead strategic planning and implementation to enhance the resiliency of learners, faculty, and staff. The work will be to foster a sustainable, psychologically brave and culturally-sensitive learning environment and workplace culture. They cannot do the work alone. We want to really invite and solicit input and feedback. You know, it's a learning adventure. Some things are going to work really well from the start. Other things we'll have to tweak. Some things may not be successful, and we need to be able to tell each other that. It's an open invitation. It's really important to me that people know how to reach me and how to reach the people on the committee.
Q: The committee will be coming soon, but what's the best way to reach you in the meantime?
A: I'm very much a fan of walking and talking. Zoom, too. You can also call or text me at 808-492-2087! The last resort is email. It's asynchronous. If we play tag over email, some of our technology can lead to languishing and burnout. So I try not to do that to people. I will respond to email, but the other means of communication come up first.