IPAC-04 Shining a Light on C. diff – Christian John Lillis

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IPAC-04 Shining a Light on C. diff – Christian John Lillis

Fighting clostridium difficile through education and advocacy
April 26, 2017

IPAC-04 Shining a Light on C. diff – Christian John Lillis

Clostridium difficile (klos-TRID-e-um dif-uh-SEEL), often called C. difficile or C. diff impacts 453,000 people every year. And with 29,000 associated deaths, it takes more lives than AIDS and drunk-driving combined. Yet, most people have never even heard of it. That’s a big problem because you can’t protect yourself from a threat when you don’t even know it exists.

The impact on the business of healthcare is significant too. A study published in the American Journal of Infection Control found that C. diff-associated diarrhea (CDAD) increases hospital costs by 40% per case (an average of $7,285 ) and puts those infected at high risk for longer hospital stays and readmissions.  Some even believe those numbers are likely underestimated.

C. diff presents us with an interesting problem at the cross-section of Infection Prevention and Control (IPAC). It’s an environmental bacterium that’s found pretty much everywhere and is difficult to kill, but it’s usually held in check by the good bacteria in our bodies. The problem usually occurs when a patient is in a weakened state from some other healthcare intervention. That may be an antibiotic treatment for another healthcare-associated infection or chemotherapy, etc. With our bodies in a weakened state and our good bacteria depleted by antibiotics, we become susceptible to C. diff. So, it’s important that we execute on all the other IPAC practices like proper hand hygiene and surface cleaning in the hospital so that, as our guest puts it, we can disrupt the chain of events that allow to C. diff to proliferate.

Episode 005 (part 4 of our IPAC series):

On this episode, we’re joined by the co-founder and Executive Director of the Peggy Lillis Foundation (PLF), Christian John Lillis.  Like so many people who’ve dedicated their lives to driving change in the healthcare industry, Christian has a very powerful “why”. He lost his mother to a clostridium difficile (C. diff) infection in April 2010. After struggling with the fact that he lost his mother to a disease he never heard of, and later finding out that it impacts so many people, Christian, along with his brother Liam, founded PLF and are building a nationwide C. diff awareness movement by educating the public, empowering advocates and shaping policy.

Christian gives us a deep and personal take on his family’s experience with C. Diff and the work that the Peggy Lillis Foundation is doing to help. We discuss:

  1. What is clostridium difficile (C. diff)?
  2. Is C. diff a Healthcare-Associated Infection (HAI) or something else?
  3. How important are hand hygiene and environmental cleaning in preventing the spread of C. diff?
  4. Why haven’t more people heard of C. diff?
  5. Why is it so hard to measure the true impact of C. diff on our health system? How do we fix that?
  6. Why do only some states require reporting on outbreaks? How does that affect the business of healthcare? How does it affect the patients?
  7. What is the Prevention and Public Health Fund? Why is it under fire and what is the impact to the CDC, states and beyond?
  8. What is the financial impact of C. diff?

Christian’s story is powerful and it’s full of wisdom that can help patients, families, and providers. In our quest to unravel the business of healthcare, it’s important to understand the people we serve and how our work impacts their lives. This is a crash course and I hope it touches you as it did me. Enjoy.

~Don Lee

  About Christian John Lillis

Christian John Lillis is executive director of The Peggy Lillis Foundation (PLF), which he co-founded with his brother, Liam, following the death of their mother from a clostridium difficile (C. diff) infection in April 2010. PLF is building a nationwide C. diff awareness movement by educating the public, empowering advocates and shaping policy.

He was previously managing director of prospect strategy & research at Teach For America. With more than 15 years’ experience as a frontline fundraiser and behind-the-scenes strategist for healthcare, LGBT rights, and education organizations, he led prospect identification and research programs that increased resource development both nationally and regionally.

Prior to joining Teach For American in November 2009, Christian served in a variety of roles for a diverse group of nonprofits, including as Director of Development for In The Life Media, Director of Major Gifts for the National LGBTQ Task Force, and Associate Director of Development Research for NYU Langone Medical Center. Throughout his career, Christian has been a frequent speaker at conferences including the Mid-Atlantic Researchers Conference and Creating Change: The National Conference on LGBT Equality. He was also a contributor to Prospect Research: A Primer for Growing Nonprofits by Cecilia Hogan.

Christian is an adviser to the Patient Voice Institute and Gulf Coast C. diff Collaborative, as well as a member of Consumers Union Safe Patient Project and Chicago Area Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Network.

He is a former member of the board of directors of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies at the City University of New York and the Association of Professional Researchers for Advancement (APRA) of Greater New York.

Christian began his fundraising career at Lambda Legal Defense & Education Fund.

He holds a B.A. in Political Theory from Brooklyn College, where he served as a term as President of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Alliance and won The Donald G. Whiteside Poetry Award his senior year.

Christian is a native of Brooklyn, New York. He currently lives in Park Slope with his husband, Chris Young, and their rescued “beagle baby”, April. His hobbies include Tae Kwon Do (he is a black belt), Zumba, reading comic books and JD Robb’s “In Death” series, and poetry writing.

About the Peggy Lillis Foundation

Mission: The Peggy Lillis Foundation is building a nationwide clostridium difficile awareness movement by educating the public, empowering advocates, and shaping policy.

Vision: We envision a world where C. diff is rare, treatable and survivable.

2017 C. diff Summit & National Strategy Meeting


Twitter: @PeggyFund

Mentioned on the show:

The Uncounted: The deadly epidemic America is ignoring. A Reuters report.

Catastrophic Care: Why Everything We Think We Know about Health Care Is Wrong: One of my favorite books on healthcare. Be prepared to be jarred and probably angry, but more aware of what’s going on in the business of healthcare. Also, a good listen on Audible at 1.25 speed.

Patient Mortality During Unannounced Accreditation Surveys at US Hospitals

About the Infection Prevention and Control Series

This episode is part of The #HCBiz Show’s Infection Prevention and Control (IPAC) series. We’d like to thank our partners and the Center of Excellence for Infection Prevention and Control (COE IPAC) for their support and guidance with the series.

About is a Pan-Access journal that extends globally and touches locally. is: Free to Publish. Free to Access and provides Accessible Scientific Services.

About Center of Excellence for Infection Prevention and Control (COE IPAC)

Center of Excellence for Infection Prevention and Control (COE IPAC) is a collaborative effort to accelerate and support new solutions that hold the promise of significantly advancing infection prevention and control. On a quarterly basis, the Center of Excellence will evaluate at least 3 international innovations – giving them access to independent testing, publication as well as a US commercialization site.

The #HCBiz Show! is produced by Glide Health IT, LLC in partnership with Netspective Media.


Soundtrack credit: Acid Lounge by FoolBoyMedia

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