Editor’s note: Each month, SHM puts the spotlight on some of our most active members who are making substantial contributions to hospital medicine.
Visit www.hospitalmedicine.org/getinvolved for more information on how you can help SHM improve the care of hospitalized patients.
Dr. Venkataraman Palabindala, FHM, is a hospitalist at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson. Dr. Palabindala is an active member of SHM’s IT Committee and has been instrumental in growing the Gulf States Chapter.
Question: What inspired you to begin working in hospital medicine and later join – and become so involved with – SHM?
Answer: I was exploring my options during my second year of residency at Greater Baltimore Medical Center as to what my final career path should be. I always loved inpatient medicine, mostly critical care, so I was thinking of completing a pulmonary critical-care fellowship. Completing a hospitalist rotation changed everything about how I saw my future and led me to specialize in hospital medicine.
Once I learned about SHM and the wealth of activities and opportunities membership offered from a few of my attendings, I applied to be part of the Leadership Committee. I attended every meeting and kept my committee work as a top priority. At the time, with little experience in hospital medicine, I knew I might not have as much to contribute as the rest, but my goal was to learn as much as I could. Never once did I feel that my voice was any more or less valuable than those of the rest of the committee members; our committee work was truly a collaborative effort.
As my career in hospital medicine has evolved, so have my contributions to SHM’s committees; I now am a proud member of the IT Committee. We’re currently working on a white paper about hospitalists’ attitudes toward electronic health record (EHR) systems and look forward to sharing more about that next month.
In addition, throughout my time with SHM, I have become a Fellow in Hospital Medicine, attended two “Hill Days” to learn about the policies, and made a concerted effort to be present at as many meetings as possible, especially SHM’s annual meetings. The networking, coupled with the workshops and lectures, is unparalleled. I have missed only one annual meeting, and I feel like I missed a Thanksgiving dinner with my family!
Q: Can you tell us about your role in the revitalization of the Gulf States Chapter and the Chapter Development Program?
A: During my time as a member of the SHM Leadership Committee, I quickly realized that hospitalists in small cities like Dothan, Ala., were not as exposed to networking and education activities as were those in big cities. To unite hospitalists in that area of the country, I founded the Wiregrass Chapter; obtaining 20 signatures to start it was an uphill task. After Dan Dressler, MD, [in Atlanta] and I gave a talk about updates in hospital medicine, the Wiregrass Chapter was awarded the Silver Chapter Award [after its first year in inception], and everything changed. The buzz around the chapter helped it continue to grow.
After I moved to Jackson, I applied for a pilot funding project to start a Jackson Chapter, as I realized the Gulf States Chapter was a bit far away. I thought a local chapter would bring all hospitalists in this area together. However, I received a call from Lisa Chester, our chapter liaison at SHM, about being a part of the Gulf States Chapter and serving as a catalyst to revitalize the chapter.
I was thrilled to work with Randy Roth, MD, and Steven Deitelzweig, MD; both are hospitalist leaders in this area. The Chapter Development Program surely helped us to create new goals and develop a realistic timeline. It kept us on track to achieve what we originally set out to do. By creating coupons to encourage membership and arranging more local meetings using this fund, we have been able to experience even more success. We are now recognizing that residents are very excited about SHM meetings and are identifying young leaders to be part of the hospital medicine movement.
Q: How has your participation in HMX – and, more broadly, engagement with SHM – helped you improve your practice?
A: HMX  is a great platform for asking questions and exchanging ideas. Being active on HMX has helped me learn important information about performance metrics, observation unit models, EHRs, coding and billing questions, and sometimes even ethical questions.
Although I still have mentors helping me, I know if I post a question on HMX, that I will get many ideas from hospitalists across the nation. I also make it a point to encourage friends every month to download the HMX app on their phones and present it as a valuable resource to my students and residents. As hospitalists, this is our forum with experts available all the time.
To encourage others to use the platform and make myself and fellow committee members accessible to other members, we actively take turns assuming responsibility for maintaining the momentum on HMX by finding intriguing topics of discussion.
Q: As we ring in 2017 after a year of many changes for HM and the health care system in general, what do you see as the biggest HM opportunities this year?
A: We know physician retention and burnout are some of the biggest challenges in hospital medicine. Given the pace at which we are growing as a specialty, I would like to see more time dedicated to addressing and attempting to alleviate these specific issues.
Also, now that hospitalists have left their stamp on inpatient medicine, specialties like critical care, nephrology, cardiology, and ob.gyn. are moving toward this model. We need to do everything we can to integrate them into our pool, move forward together, and learn from each other.
Lastly, mentorship is of paramount importance as we head into the future. We must encourage young hospitalists to mentor students and residents and recruit them to be part of SHM when they return home.