On top of her role as a hospitalist at the Aurora BayCare Medical Center in Green Bay, Wis., Lonika Sood, MD, FACP, is currently a candidate for a Masters in health professions education.
From her earliest training to the present day, she has maintained her passion for education, both as a student and an educator.
“I am a part of a community of practice, if you will, of other health professionals who do just this – medical education on a higher level.” Dr. Sood said. “Not only on the front lines of care, but also in designing curricula, undertaking medical education research, and holding leadership positions at medical schools and hospitals around the world.”
As one of the eight new members of The Hospitalist editorial advisory board, Dr. Sood is excited to use her role to help inform and to learn. She told us more about herself in a recent interview.
Q: How did you choose a career in medicine?
A: I grew up in India. I come from a family of doctors. When I was in high school, we found that we had close to 60 physicians in our family, and that number has grown quite a bit since then. At home, being around physicians, that was the language that I grew into. It was a big part of who I wanted to become when I grew up. The other part of it was that I’ve always wanted to help people and do something in one of the science fields, so this seemed like a natural choice for me.
Q: What made you choose hospital medicine?
A: I’ll be very honest – when I came to the United States for my residency, I wanted to become a subspecialist. I used to joke with my mentors in my residency program that every month I wanted to be a different subspecialist depending on which rotation I had or which physician really did a great job on the wards. After moving to Green Bay, Wis., I thought, “We’ll keep residency on hold for a couple of years.” Then I realized that I really liked medical education. I knew that I wanted to be a "specialist" in medical education, yet keep practicing internal medicine, which is something that I’ve always wanted to do. Being a hospitalist is like a marriage of those two passions.
Q: What about medical education draws you?
A: I think a large part of it was that my mother is a physician. My dad is in the merchant navy. In their midlife, they kind of fine-tuned their career paths by going into teaching, so both of them are educators, and very well accomplished in their own right. Growing up, that was a big part of what I saw myself becoming. I did not realize until later in my residency that it was my calling. Additionally, my experience of going into medicine and learning from good teachers is, in my mind, one of the things that really makes me comfortable, and happy being a doctor. I want to be able to leave that legacy for the coming generation.
Q: Tell us how your skills as a teacher help you when you’re working with your patients?
A: To give you an example, we have an adult internal medicine hospital, so we frequently have patients who come to the hospital for the first time. Some of our patients have not seen a physician in over 30 or 40 years. There may be many reasons for that, but they’re scared. They’re sick. They’re in a new environment. They are placing their trust in somebody else’s hands. As teachers and as doctors, it’s important for us to be compassionate, kind, and relatable to patients. We must also be able to explain to patients in their own words what is going on with their body, what might happen, and how can we help. We’re not telling patients what to do or forcing them to take our treatment recommendations, but we are helping them make informed choices. I think hospital medicine really is an incredibly powerful field that can help us relate to our patients.
Q: What is the best professional advice you have received in medicine?
A: I think the advice that I try to follow every day is to be humble. Try to be the best that you can be, yet stay humble, because there’s so much more that you can accomplish if you stay grounded. I think that has stuck with me. It’s come from my parents. It’s come from my mentors. And sometimes it comes from my patients, too.
Q: What is the worst advice you have received?
A: That’s a hard question, but an important one as well, I think. Sometimes there is a push – from society or your colleagues – to be as efficient as you can be, which is great, but we have to look at the downside of it. We sometimes don’t stop and think, or stop and be human. We’re kind of mechanical if data are all we follow.
Q: So where do you see yourself in the next 10 years?
A: That’s a question I try to answer daily, and I get a different answer each time. I think I do see myself continuing to provide clinical care for hospitalized patients. I see myself doing a little more in educational leadership, working with medical students and medical residents. I’m just completing my master’s in health professions education, so I’m excited to also start a career in medical education research.
Q: What’s the best book that you’ve read recently, and why was it the best?
A: Oh, well, it’s not a new book, and I’ve read this before, but I keep coming back to it. I don’t know if you’ve heard of Jim Corbett. He was a wildlife enthusiast in the early 20th century. He wrote a lot of books on man-eating tigers and leopards in India. My brother and I and my dad used to read these books growing up. That’s something that I’m going back to and rereading. There is a lot of rich description about Indian wildlife, and it’s something that brings back good memories.