Every organization has its unique journey starting right from its inception. This was no different for Washington Advocates for Patient Safety (WAPS).

As co-founders of WAPS, Yanling Yu and Rex Johnson entered the patient safety the hard way after a preventable medication error and poor hospital care took the life of Yanling’s Father.  Yanling and Rex filed complaints against the hospital and the doctor for their negligence and failure to inform about the warned drug risks. Instead of getting help and information, they learned that the state medical board and regulatory system do not meet the public expectation for being responsive and transparent to the public.

After three years of campaigning for board transparency and working with state lawmakers as well as Consumers Union Safe Patient Project (CU SPP), Yanling and Rex finally got a new state law passed to increase the transparency of all the state medical boards. For the first time in this state, this new law guarantees patients and their families the rights to an  explanation of the boards’ decisions and for the patients and their families to provide a statement on how the medical errors and harm they experienced have affected their lives.  In 2011, close to the third anniversary of Yanling’s Father’s death, Governor Chris Gregoire signed SHB 1493 into law, “providing greater transparency to the health professions disciplinary process.” (Click Here to Learn More)

Here is a picture of Governor Chris Gregoire signing SHB1493 into law with supporters of the bill.  The primary sponsor of the bill was then-Representative Jamie Pedersen (far right), with Co-sponsors Representatives Cindy Ryu (far left) and Ruth Kagi (to the right of Cindy Ryu). To the right of Governor Gregoire is Yanling Yu holding a picture of her Dad who was killed by a medical error.  Between Yanling Yu and Rep. Pedersen is Rex Johnson (Yanling’s husband) and behind Yanling is David Berger (a close personal friend of Yanling and Rex and a strong supporter of patient safety).

Governor Chris Gregoire signing SHB 1493 into law

Governor Chris Gregoire signing SHB 1493 into law

To continue their efforts to promote patient rights and safety and to give a voice to patients, Yanling and Rex co-founded Washington Advocates for Patient Safety in honor of Yanling’s Father and all other patients who have been harmed and/or died from preventable medical errors.

Their efforts to form this patient safety organization started in 2011, when Yanling initiated a number of discussions with CU SPP director Lisa McGiffert and her staffer Daniela Nunez. Lisa and Daniela were very supportive of the idea of forming a local patient and consumer-based advocacy group; they introduced Samuel, another local patient safety advocate, to Rex and Yanling.

In the early January of 2012, the three met at Northgate to discuss forming a local patient safety organization.  Yanling and Rex suggested the name “Washington Advocates for Patient Safety (WAPS)”, and Samuel took on the task of registering WAPS with the state.  The three also discussed how to get more people involved with patient safety efforts in Washington State and agreed to have the first WAPS meeting in February.

At this planning meeting, three priorities were set: (1) forming Washington Advocates for Patient Safety; (2) creating a web site to increase our visibility and to get more people on board; and (3) planning a patient safety summit in Seattle in 2012.

In the mid-January of 2012, Samuel filed the paperwork with the Washington Secretary of State office and registered WAPS as a non-profit. At the same time, Rex, Samuel, and Yanling worked together to build a web page for WAPS.  On Jan 28th of 2012, WAPS was approved as an official non-profit in Washington State.

The first WAPS meeting was held in February, 2012. Karie and Wayne Fugate, who had suffered the death of their son due to medical errors, were invited to attend and joined WAPS. Our future patient safety advocacy work in Washington State was planned out.

Later in mid-2012, Linda Radach, Dwight and Mary Schrag were connected with WAPS through CU SPP when working together on a medical device safety campaign at the national level.  Shortly afterwards, Linda and Dwight joined WAPS.

In April of 2013, Rex filed a request with the IRS for a 501c3 charity status.  On May 5th of2014, WAPS officially became a 501c3 public charity. Today, WAPS continues to grow in membership and has become a recognized patient safety organization in Washington State.  Most of WAPS members have personally been affected by preventable medical errors, the third leading cause of death now in the US. To prevent what has happened to them from happening to others, WAPS members have become patient safety experts to bring patients’ voices into the health care system to improve quality of care, patient safety, healthcare transparency and accountability.

Nationally, WAPS is a member of Consumers Union Patient Safety Network, the Coalition of Patient, Consumer, and Public Health, and Consumers United for Evidence‐based Healthcare.

In recognition of our knowledge on patient safety issues and advocacy, WAPS members have been invited to work on a variety of patient safety projects. This includes teaching at the University of Washington for AHRQ’s national TeamSTEPPS to improve medical team communications and teaching at the UW medical school about interprofessional practice on patient-centered care and shared‐decision making.

WAPS members also serve on the Medical Device Epidemiology Network Initiative (MDEpiNet), a national patient panel to adviser FDA on medical device safety, the state Healthcare Associated Infections Advisory Committee, the Patient Safety Committee of the National Quality Forum, and a FDA advisory committee. WAPS members also worked with Washington State Bree Collaborative work group to develop care standards. In addition, in 2014, Governor Inslee appointed Yanling to be a public member serving on Washington State Medical Quality Assurance Commission.  To see a list of our accomplishments, click here.

As a volunteer organization, WAPS members devote countless hours going out into the community to educate the public on patient-centered care, patient empowerment, medication safety, and healthcare infection prevention. They represent the true voice of patients working hard to help improve quality care and patient safety.