IT’S 11 MINUTES to 8 o’clock, and the sun is still climbing over the Potomac River just outside the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Md. Day two of SHM’s annual meeting is about to begin.
Hospitalists file into a cavernous ballroom as the day kicks off with a panel discussion on healthcare reform and a speech by that rarest of breed: a popular hospital CEO. The back of the room fills quickly, but front and center, second row—that’s the seat for Nasim Afsarmanesh, MD, director of quality for HM and neurosurgery at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles.
“If I’m not in the front, I zone out,” she admits.
Dr. Afsarmanesh (who often adds a hyphen to her surname— Afsar-manesh—to help others pronounce it) knows herself and she knows how to plan ahead, from taking notes on her mini-laptop to knowing when to sit up front. And this day in her life is no different. Her schedule is a 12-hour dervish, yet it’s a simple roadmap of how to navigate HM10 and its scores of sessions, speeches, and seminars.
Innovator at Heart
Dr. Afsarmanesh did her residency in 2007 at UCLA. She stayed on to take a faculty position and is now assistant clinical professor of internal medicine (IM) and neurosurgery. Her days are split about 35% clinical practice, 40% on neurology quality issues, and 25% on hospital QI projects. In her free time, she’s an SHM activist and the incoming chair of its Hospital Quality and Patient Safety (HQPS) Committee.
“I get to be an innovator,” she boasts as she picks up a Danish, a chocolate pastry, and a cup of tea following two hours of listening to others talk. “I love that. You can’t really be an innovator when you’re [purely] practicing clinical medicine.”
Innovation requires preparation, though. Dr. Afsarmanesh spends countless hours creating PowerPoint presentations, so she hit a new feature at this year’s meeting: a limited-seating workshop on drawing up effective slides. The presentation is helpful, but she’s partially distracted. “Look up healthcare from talk,” she types as a note to herself for later. She follows that with “Look up Levy’s talk” (a nod to Paul Levy, the well-liked CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess in Boston).
The distraction ratchets up as she’s already looking forward to introducing herself to the editorial board of the Journal of Hospital Medicine, where she serves as an assistant editor. There are a few people she’d like to meet in person, so she gracefully sneaks out the side door a few minutes before noon. Handshakes, a box lunch, and a chat with 40 other journal editors ensue for the next hour.
“You can meet people you talk on the phone with for several years,” she says. “You can put a face to the name. That’s important.”
Hobnobbing at a board meeting is only a brief respite, however, before it’s back to professional development. At 1:15, there’s a 60-minute lesson on how to improve care from the patient perspective. Dr. Afsarmanesh, again, is distracted. She’s a first-time presenter in a few minutes, part of a four-woman panel on building a QI educational curriculum for medical students, residents, fellows, faculty, and other healthcare providers.