Dr Ashley Fico on high stakes conversations in healthcare (#27)

Conversations in healthcare can be very difficult. 

When I say that you might immediately think of doctors giving bad news to patients or their loved ones. 

But imagine having to talk to the family of someone who has just passed away.  

And you need to ask them if they would like to donate their loved one’s organs. 

It’s conversations like this that Dr Ashley Fico studies. 

Dr. Ashley Fico is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Public Health & Health Education at the State University of New York at Brockport. Her research focuses on the role of interpersonal communication in health contexts, such as examining how requesters communicate with families about the option for organ donation at the end-of-life. She is also CEO and Co-Founder of InnoQuests LLC. The InnoQuest app, launching later this year, transforms the act of touring a city into an escape room-like experience.  

We hope you enjoy this insightful conversation with Dr Ashley Fico. 

You can connect with Ashley via LinkedIn or her website.  

You can listen to the episode on Apple, Google, Spotify, Stitcher or Simplecast

Show Notes

1:50 – drawn to interpersonal communication because it was so broad.
3:01 – communication applied to organ donation conversations.
4:55 – communication needs to be audience-centred.
6:22 – your audience can have very diverse beliefs and opinions.
7:47 – you are not your audience.
11:24 – how shows like Greys Anatomy shapes perception about organ donation.
15:27 – reading your audience without making assumptions.
20:39 – best way to approach sensitive conversation.
22:03 – perception checking. Did they understand what you said?
23:50 – sharing embarrassing stories to make you more approachable.
26:08 – more ways to do perception checking.
28:26 – different ways to get our point across.
30:28 – value judgements vs observation.
32:52 – importance of emotional intelligence in these conversations.
34:49 – how stories impact organ donations.
37:54 – health communication during COVID.
40:05 – humility vs confidence in communication.
42:48 – What is InnoQuest?
43:50 – Sunday Funday experiences.
49:33 – InnoQuest’s impact on how cities are perceived.
51:32 – getting below the surface of the place you are visiting.
53:02 – importance of trying new things.
56:04 – getting in touch with Ashley.

Links to References

Organ procurement organisation (OPO

Greys Anatomy 

Narrative transportation theory 

Hollywood Health in Society organisation 

Brain death 


Wicked Musical 

Escape room 

Scavenger hunt 

Immesrvice theatre experience 

Key Quotes

“Interpersonal communication is fascinating. We are all doing it all the time.” 

“The health aspects of interpersonal communication is fascinating.” 

“Communication needs to be audience centred.” 

“I build the class around the audience.” 

“You are not your audience.” 

“Most successful requestors are passionate, informative and, above all else, supportive.” 

“Every class I make sure I have something ridiculous to tell them. It lightens the mood, everyone laughs….it feel safer.” 

“Years ago we had more people who came from a Sales background. Today we have more people with social worker background or with a personal connection working as a requestor.” 

“Nobody can know everything, No matter how much you know in a field, there is always more to know.” 

“Sunday Funday  – We pick one Sunday every month and try something new.” 

“I’d be going up to strangers in New York and saying, do you know so and so….no really, you do?” 

“We just don’t take the time to look at all of the stuff around us.” 

“This idea of reminding us to pay attention to what is right in front of us.” 

About the author

Divan and Mark are co-hosts of the Candour Communication Podcast where we discuss interpersonal communication and all the human stuff that gets in the way.