Venkatraraman “Raman” Palabindala, MD, FACP, SFHM, was destined to be a doctor since his first breath. Born in India, his father decided Dr. Palabindala would take the mantle as the doctor of the family, while his siblings took to other professions like engineering.
Eager to be in the thick of things, Dr. Palabindala has voraciously pursued leadership positions, leading to his current role as chief of the Division of Hospital Medicine at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, Jackson.
Over the course of his career, Dr. Palabindala has become engrossed with both the medical and business sides of medicine, hoping to break down some of the stigmas that each hold for the other. In India, Dr. Palabindala used writing to help educate rural populations on safe medical practices.
Dr. Palabindala is enthusiastic about his role as one of the eight new members of The Hospitalist editorial advisory board, and took time to tell us more about himself in a recent interview.
Q: How did you get into medicine?
A: It’s all because of my dad’s motivation. My father believed in education, so when I was born, he said, “He’s going to be a doctor,” and as I grew up, I just worked towards being a physician and nothing else. I didn’t even have an option of choosing anything else. My dad said that I would be a doctor, and I am a doctor. I feel like that was the best thing that happened to me, though; it worked out well.
Q: How and when did you decide to go into hospital medicine?
A: After I came to the U.S., I joined residency in internal medicine at GBMC – that’s Greater Baltimore Medical Center – it’s affiliated with Johns Hopkins. I always wanted to be an internist, but my experiences in the clinic world were not so great. But I really enjoyed inpatient medicine, so in my 3rd year, when I was doing my chief residency year, I did get opportunities to join a fellowship, but I decided just to be a hospitalist at that time.
Q: What do you find to be rewarding about hospital medicine?
A: Everything. Transforming health care – I think we do that very efficiently, in terms of influencing policy, patient safety, patient-centered medical care, quality, and education. My first couple of years as a hospitalist, I was not especially excited about resident education, but later I became director and I enjoyed motivating the young physicians to learn the business aspects of medicine, quality metrics, and patient safety. When I was a resident, we were never told about all these things, and we were not trained by hospitalists.
Q: What is one of the biggest challenges in hospital medicine?
A: I think talking about the business aspect of medicine, because it is like a taboo. We don’t really want to talk about whether the patient is covered or not covered by insurance, how much we are billing, and why we must discuss business issues while we are trying to focus on patient care, but these things are going to indirectly affect patient care, too. If you didn’t note the patient status accurately, they are going to get an inappropriate bill.
Q: What’s the best advice you have received that you try to pass on to your students?
A: Do the rounds at the bedside. We have the tendency of doing everything outside and then going in the room and just telling the patient what we are going to do. Instead, I encourage everyone to be at the bedside. Even without students, I go and sit at the bedside and then review the data in terms the patient can understand, and then explain the care plan, so they actually feel like we are at the bedside for a longer time. We are with the patient for at least 10 to 15 minutes, but at the same time, we are getting things done. I encourage my students and residents to do this.
Q: What is the worst advice you’ve received?
A: I don’t know if this is the “worst” advice, but in my second year, I was trying to take some leadership positions and was told I should wait, that leadership skills come with experience. I do think that’s a bad piece of advice. It’s all about learning how hard you work and then how fast you learn, and then how fast you implement. People who work, learn, and implement quickly can make a difference.