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New CHIPS Leader Drawn by Excellence in Simulation at UTHSC, Looks to Future

The new executive director of the Center for Healthcare Improvement and Patient Simulation at UTHSC, Dr. Tara Jackson Lemoine aims to expand the reach of simulation in the university and beyond.

Tara Jackson Lemoine, DO, came to the University of Tennessee Health Science Center to lead the Center for Healthcare Improvement and Patient Simulation (CHIPS) on the Memphis campus, as much for the state-of-the-art facility, as for the outstanding staff members who operate it.

“The building is beautiful, and it is a standout, but I think the people inside it, the simulation experts who are a part of this program, are the people who set the standard for what health care simulation is in this country,” Dr. Lemoine said. “So, it is not just being able to work in the building itself, it is the core CHIPS simulation team who really are the impetus for me being here. Additionally, the commitment of the senior campus leadership to simulation and their clear understanding of its value in education and the impact it has on health care, were the drivers for me joining CHIPS.

The new executive director for CHIPS, a nearly $40 million simulation building that opened in 2018, Dr. Lemoine comes to UTHSC from Valley Children’s Hospital in Madera, California. She is dual board certified in pediatrics and pediatric critical care. After receiving her Doctor of Osteopathy degree from North Texas Health Science Center, she completed her residency and critical care fellowship at Primary Children’s Medical Center and the University of Utah. She obtained a fellowship in simulation medicine through the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada.

“I fell in love with simulation because my clinical background in pediatric critical care is a high-acuity, fast-paced, procedurally heavy, team-based field of medicine,” Dr. Lemoine said. “And I was drawn to simulation because it helped secure, not only the required procedural skills to be an intensivist, but also the mastery of communication and interprofessional teamwork that is necessary to deliver high-quality safe patient care.”

“The further I got into my career, the more I realized that simulation helps people with their clinical skills, but more importantly, it helps them learn to function in the health care environment, which is never in a silo,” she continued. “It helps people learn to communicate and be introspective about how they behave and how they interact with their health care team, all of which impacts the patients.

Immediately prior to joining UTHSC, Dr. Lemoine spent 10 years building a simulation program at Valley Children’s Hospital. The medical director of simulation and the academic chief of resident and fellow simulation, she started with one simulation a month, growing the program into an interprofessional simulation program that reached throughout the hospital. “Anybody who worked within our hospital, clinics, or was part of our organization engaged in our simulation program,” she said. Eventually, the program reached outside the hospital, offering simulation training in pediatric care to other facilities and groups across the Central Valley in California.

Ready for a new opportunity, Dr. Lemoine was eager to transition her career to a larger scale and to have the capacity to reach a more robust audience of health care providers.

“Having a background in simulation medicine, as well as clinical experience in the interprofessional world of not only training people and working alongside a team, this opportunity appealed to me because it’s one of the largest simulation centers in the country, certainly the only one of its kind in the state.”

Dr. Tara Lemoine

She was also attracted by what she sees as the capacity to broaden the scope of simulation at UTHSC.

“There is a phenomenal amount of expertise in simulation in this building and it is an untapped asset to this university and community,” Dr. Lemoine said.

She acknowledged the work of Chad Epps, MD, the first executive director of CHIPS, who passed away in late 2020. “He was a formidable simulationist and was groundbreaking in the world of simulation medicine,” Dr. Lemoine said. “To be able to follow in his footsteps is an honor, and hopefully, I will do justice to what it is that he was dreaming this to be one day, and I, like him, see that this is the key to patient safety and the future of training and education.”

In January, CHIPS received accreditation in Teaching/Education by the Society for Simulation in Healthcare (SSH) and the Council for Accreditation of Healthcare Simulation Programs. SSH accreditation is a peer-reviewed, customized evaluation of health care simulation programs and signifies that CHIPS is delivering high-quality simulations to prepare clinicians for the diverse array of health care situations and procedures they will encounter in the patient-care setting.

As she settles into her new position, Dr. Lemoine hopes to build on this excellent momentum to expand the reach of simulation activities at UTHSC, locally, nationally, and internationally.

“For example, right now, we do a lot of work for the entities that are on campus, but what we can do from an external partnership standpoint with local hospitals, with their health care providers, community partners, and countless other entities that interface with the health and well-being of people is limitless,” she said. “There is a vast ocean of opportunity within this building, and I am grateful to be a part of its future and the spotlight it shines on the campus of UTHSC, as well as Memphis.”