Amid pandemic, retired doctor’s Forrest Gump-like walk for patient safety

A retired anesthesiologist who now heads a patient safety movement for a large hospital network in the D.C. area planned a full day of activities during Tuesday’s visit to the nation’s capital.

“We started walking from Arlington National Cemetery; we’re just passing the White House, on our way to the Capitol building, and eventually finish at the Nationals’ ballpark,” said Dr. David Mayer, CEO of the Patient Safety Movement Foundation and executive director for MedStar Institute for Quality and Safety.

“I’m trying to raise awareness about the third-leading cause of death in the United States, behind cancer and heart disease,” Mayer said. “And that’s preventable medical harm of patients and caregivers.”

Mayer said the coronavirus pandemic has put a spotlight on the need for patient and health care worker safety, since medical error is the cause of over 200,000 deaths in America each year.

“Back in February, when this pandemic was starting, many of us in health care realized it was going to be a serious issue,” Mayer said. “I wanted to do something to honor those on the front lines.

I saw the movie ‘Forrest Gump,’ and I decided to start walking.”

Amid his virtual walk across the country, Mayer plans to walk in all cities that have MLB teams.

“I’ve now walked over 1,100 miles in the last 170 straight days. So far, I’ve visited Phoenix, Denver, Kansas City, St. Louis, Milwaukee, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and now Washington,” Mayer said, pausing for a brief WTOP interview with the White House visible over his shoulder.

Mayer plans to complete nearly 3,000 miles during the journey, and expects to finish in early 2021.

“We need to bring attention to the importance of improving the care system, support our health workforce and ensure better outcomes [of patients],” Mayer said.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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