Improving Healthcare around the Globe, Giving Back at Home
By Tina Cormier
Matthew Spurgeon, MA’04, credits the Master’s Program in Social Sciences (MAPSS) with preparing him for many of the challenges he has faced since graduating. His focus was political science, but he took courses across a wide swath of disciplines – sociology, anthropology, history, economics, political science – and never felt shoehorned into a particular track.
“There was a big focus on the craft of research and problem-solving, which set me up well for the next phase of my career,” Spurgeon says.
From a young age, Spurgeon had a curiosity about how people organize themselves to accomplish tasks – in particular within the context of international relations. Today, as Director of International Education at Joint Commission International (JCI), he pursues those interests every day.
An international leader in health care accreditation, JCI is the accreditor of the majority of hospitals in the United States. Internationally, they accredit some of the world’s best hospitals.
Spurgeon oversees the global education efforts of the organization while also providing business development leadership. He helps organizations understand JCI’s rigorous standards, which cover a wide range of healthcare quality and patient safety measures, including issues like infection control, staff safety, medication management, and patient and family rights.
“Where we can, we try not to be too prescriptive and to provide a wide degree of latitude on ways to meet standards that are culturally acceptable,” says Spurgeon. For instance, JCI standards require two forms of patient identification prior to surgery. In some countries, where many people share the same names, name may not be a good identifier. “We work with the hospitals to figure out what practices work, so long as they meet the outcomes required.”
Spurgeon directs the face-to-face and digital educational offerings for JCI. He uses his background in international relations and social sciences to help health care providers from all over the world understand what their issues are, how to improve, and how to prepare for accreditation within the cultural norms of their countries.
“Unless there is a good motivation beyond the intrinsic value of doing the right thing for your patients, it’s hard and expensive to make a business decision to improve quality,” explains Spurgeon. “We are helping to balance the scales by providing this gold seal, which hospitals can use to market themselves and attract more patients. The end result is that patients get better quality care, and that’s a good thing.”
In addition to his role with JCI, Spurgeon serves as the the MAPSS alumni association president, where he helps chart the board’s general direction and serves as facilitator between the board and the University. He also has the challenging responsibility to translate the big ideas coming from the group’s committees into a plan of realistic, achievable goals.
“We aim to cultivate an active intellectual alumni community and provide resources to current students and alumni. MA students are experiencing a very enriching, yet hectic year, and may need assistance processing what might come next,” says Spurgeon.
To that end, the board plans, oversees, and hosts social and educational programs and events to help graduates transition to the job market. Recent networking events have targeted a variety of demographics within the alumni community – pub trivia nights in Hyde Park tend to draw a crowd of more recent graduates, while a series of events at the Field Museum has been popular with older graduates.
“For me, the best part of the program was meeting my wife, who was studying sociology. It was also great preparation for the sleep deprivation of having kids,” he jokes.
“Once we move on from academics and get a job or start a family, we sometimes lose the ability to have these high level conversations with our peers – that’s one of the big reasons that alumni are so enthusiastic about these programs. We are providing an opportunity to engage and reconnect,” says Spurgeon.