If you have been to the AAMI headquarters, you know how much we appreciate having a great restaurant on the street level of our building—The Willow. It has been on the “best of Arlington” list for most of its 10-year history. For us at AAMI, it’s convenient, with great food, and the Willow staff has become family to the AAMI staff and our regular visitors. We have celebrated the recognition of award winners, birthdays, goodbyes, and staff anniversaries, and we have hosted many productive meetings with colleagues from around the world.
The Willow will close its doors next week, and many AAMI memories will be lost in what for me is a sad transition. Restaurants come and go, and perhaps that fact alone should have prepared us for the news. It didn’t.
The Willow became an unintended consequence of change. An entire neighborhood office building was vacated earlier this year when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife offices moved to a new government building in an area with a less expensive footprint. New restaurants in the neighborhood have opened that, at least for the moment, seem more enticing to some. Food truck traffic continues to grow for the lunch trade. And the owner of our building wanted to double the rent.
The Willow’s closing comes with an assortment of unintended consequences. The Willow staff will need to find new jobs. The food suppliers have lost a highly respected customer. The regulars from a retirement community across the street will need to find a new watering hole. The building owner will be without significant rent until it finds a new tenant. The parking garage will see a drop in short-term parking fees. The street view will be less inviting with an abandoned patio and unattended flowers and plants.
On a more positive note, neighboring restaurants will see an upturn in business. AAMI staff and visitors will try new places that were untested simply because of the ease of the Willow’s location. Perhaps an even better restaurant will move in. Perhaps the Willow staff will land better jobs or launch new careers.
Although the changes with the departure of the Willow are small in scale compared with the changes—and their unintended consequences—in healthcare today, this local change has a real and significant impact on many good people. For me, this local loss is a reminder of how hard it is to deal with change when we know the humans who are impacted. On a much grander scale, every change in healthcare has a multitude of humans behind it who in one way or another are impacted by the change.
I will toast the Willow staff next week as I anticipate their departure from the building where I spend most of my waking hours each work day. The change will be difficult for me because I have become so attached—and have so many memories inextricably linked to place.
In this post, today, I toast each of you who works in healthcare. Your worlds are changing in a fast and furious way that the rest of the world doesn’t always see as up close and personal as the departure of a favorite restaurant. On behalf of all of the AAMI staff, this personal loss reminds us to tell you that we do recognize the impact of the changes in healthcare on your day to day world. Thank you for the incredible work you do each day, and for your persistence and patience as we all work together through a time of fast paced change in healthcare.
Mary Logan, JD, CAE, is president of AAMI.