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SHM has announced the annual Awards of Excellence to hospitalists on the leading edge of the specialty. The honors recognize accomplishments in education, research, clinical care, service, and quality improvement (QI). The praises are as varied as the recipients: They hail from Wisconsin to Pennsylvania, Minnesota to North Carolina.

This year’s awards, presented at the annual President’s Luncheon at HM09 in Chicago, went to:

Novant Health's Corporate Medical Reconciliation team, led by Dr. Gardella (second from left), receives the 2009 Awards of Excellence for Team Approaches in Quality Improvement.

Novant Health’s Corporate Medical Reconciliation team, led by Dr. Gardella (second from left), receives the 2009 Awards of Excellence for Team Approaches in Quality Improvement.

Team Approaches in Quality Improvement Award

Led by John Gardella, MD, MBA, FCCP, FHM

Novant Health’s Corporate Medication Reconciliation Team

When Novant Health made medication reconciliation a long-term goal three years ago, it chose Dr. Gardella to lead a 31-member team that pulled physicians from about a half-dozen departments. Maybe he was tapped because he’d recently attended an SHM forum where he listened to another physician’s advice on reconciliation. Now he’s the doctor leading those talks.

“I hope the award means a safer environment for the patients,” says Dr. Gardella, vice president of clinical improvement for Novant, a nonprofit healthcare system that operates nine institutions in the Carolinas.

He and his team designed a safety program involving pharmacy technicians to gather pre-admission medical lists and clinical pharmacists to educate the most complex patients. The interventions reduced 30- and 60-day readmission rates. The team was so successful in its efforts that the project is being expanded beyond two pilot hospitals to the whole system.

“We didn’t just want to focus on complying with a checklist,” Dr. Gardella says. “Somebody has to talk with the patient and ask, ‘What are you taking? How often are you taking it?’ ”

Award for Excellence in Teaching

Eric Howell, MD, FHM

Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, Baltimore

Dr. Howell is an admitted introvert, so one might assume teaching isn’t the most natural application of his medical talents. But when he became chief resident at Johns Hopkins in 1999, he was forced to lead weekly education sessions. The next year, it was weekly didactic classes as an instructor. Five years later, he made assistant professor; this year he moved up again, to associate professor.

“It’s certainly not my fund of knowledge,” Dr. Howell says. “Students and I enjoy interacting because I enjoy it and I make it fun. What little knowledge I have, I pass on well.”

Dr. Howell’s laid-back style—he asks students to call him Eric, although they rarely do—serves him well in the classroom setting. However, the other hats he wears—as Bayview Medical Center’s hospitalist division director and faculty leader at Helen B. Taussig College—limit his teaching time. In a way, it’s what helped him win the award.

“Because I have many other things to do, [teaching] stays special,” says Dr. Howell, who recently joined SHM’s Board of Directors. “It’s a nice reprieve from some of the other high-pressure things, like treating a sick patient, problem-solving for my hospital, or keeping my hospitalist group running.”

Excellence in Research Award

Samir Shah, MD, MSCE, FHM

Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

Most medical students don’t set out to be hailed as researchers, and Dr. Shah is no exception. Still, in order to graduate from the Yale University School of Medicine, every student has to complete a research project. The research bug bit Dr. Shah, and he stayed an extra year at Yale to pursue teaching and research interests. Now he’s a leading voice for pediatric hospitalists, an assistant professor of pediatrics and epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School of Medicine, and an attending physician at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

“It’s the feeling of making a difference not in the life of one child but the lives of many children,” he says. “To say I fundamentally had an impact on the way we view a disease … that’s a different feeling altogether.”

Dr. Shah’s research has focused on improved management of patients with common childhood infections, particularly pneumonia and meningitis. His research is published regularly, and he serves as editor or co-editor for several journals.

“The goal of our research is to influence policy or clinical practice,” Dr Shah says. “Ideally, both.”

Award for Outstanding Service in HM

Eric Siegal, MD, FHM

University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison

Dr. Siegal has been the head of SHM’s Public Policy Committee for nearly four years, and while he jokes that no one else is dumb enough to take on the role, it’s exactly that kind of experience that has earned him the society’s “utility infielder award.”

“It’s gotten harder,” Dr. Siegal says of HM advocacy. “Now that people know what SHM is ... it’s going to get a lot harder, in a good way.”

SHM leaders say Dr. Siegal’s grasp of issues is vital as the federal government weighs the most significant healthcare reform in decades and hospitals struggle to balance costs and efficiency against the push to improve quality of care.

In fact, Dr. Siegal’s reputation within the society is so respected he was co-nominated for this year’s service award by Laura Allendorf, SHM’s senior advisor on advocacy and government affairs. Dr. Siegal currently is a critical-care fellow in Madison, and previously served as regional medical director for Cogent Healthcare.

Award for Clinical Excellence

Jerome Siy, MD, FHM

Regions Hospital, Saint Paul, Minn.

Dr. Siy wants to collaborate on pretty much everything. It doesn’t matter if he’s developing an HM platform that employs nearly 50 hospitalists, teaching at the University of Minnesota Medical School, or creating an interdisciplinary program that pulls together hospitalists, ED physicians, and behavioral health doctors.

“Nothing is successful when one person does all the work,” Dr. Siy says. “It doesn’t help just having department heads in a room. You need the people who are actually working.”

Dr. Siy’s work as chief of hospital medicine at Regions drew industry-wide attention, namely for the program he developed to carve out 96 inpatient mental-health beds to streamline intake and discharge processes. And even though he also directs a fellowship program for HealthPartners Medical Group in Saint Paul, Dr. Siy views his award as a testament to his colleagues.

“When you’re part of a team that you really enjoy, the work becomes easier,” Dr. Siy says. “I feel like it’s an acknowledgement of the way we all work together.” TH

Richard Quinn is a freelance writer based in New Jersey.

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Leonard Feldman, MD, FAAP, Bayview Hospital, Johns Hopkins University

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Jason Price, MD, New York Presbyterian Hospital

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