Michelle Mourad, MD, says she’s always had “the doctor gene.” As a child, she spent countless hours playing with her Fisher-Price medical kit, and she gained an early appreciation for the scientific method thanks to family members who encouraged her to answer her own questions through discovery and experimentation. A youthful fascination evolved into a calling during high school, when she participated in a summer mentoring program at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose, Calif. Paired with two neurosurgeons, she spent 12-hour days accompanying them on rounds, observing surgeries in the operating room, and attending case conferences.
“Right away, I was hooked,” says Dr. Mourad, assistant professor and director of quality for the division of hospital medicine at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) Medical Center and medical director of UCSF’s Congestive Heart Failure and Oncology hospitalist services, which comanage bone-marrow transplant and advanced-heart-failure patients in partnership with oncologists and cardiologists.
“I loved the community of medicine and I loved the hospital,” adds Dr. Mourad, one of the newest members of Team Hospitalist. “The interdisciplinary nature really resonated with me. That was when I realized this lifelong feeling of ‘I’m going to be a doctor’ actually had a lot of foundation to it.”
Question: Did you always intend to become a hospitalist?
Answer: I didn’t know hospitalists existed when I started medical school. I gravitated toward internal medicine and was pretty sure I would specialize. I went to internal-medicine residency thinking I wanted to be a gastroenterologist, but I found that a little limiting. I decided to be a pulmonary critical-care doctor, but realized, although I enjoy taking care of patients who are critically ill, I didn’t really want that to be my whole focus. When I started thinking about other options, I knew I was reaching.
Q: So how did you wind up in HM?
A: I enjoyed the community of the hospital—the fast pace, the ability to make treatment decisions and see your changes real-time, the ability to work with residents and interns, the intense time you spend with families during which you can really make or break their hospital experience and make a difference in the care they receive. When I realized I loved those things, the decision was easy.
Q: What does it mean to you to practice at one of the most highly respected HM programs in the country?
A: People want you to succeed. We are encouraged to get involved in the way the hospital works and make it about more than clinical care. The variety of things people do at our institution makes you realize hospitalists are not only clinicians; they are leaders, thinkers, role models, and advocates for patient safety. That’s incredibly motivating.
Q: Your career includes clinical, quality improvement, and administrative roles. Is there one aspect you enjoy most?
A: I need that variety. Allowing us to have that balance here has made the program great. My passion is quality improvement—the ability to affect patients on a personal level but to say, “How do I put systems in place to make hospitals safer and a better experience for every patient?” Figuring out how to navigate your own institution to engender change is challenging, but when you see that change manifest and you have providers and patients thank you for it, it’s probably the most rewarding thing I do.