Editor’s note: Each month, the Society of Hospital Medicine puts the spotlight on some of our most active members who are making substantial contributions to hospital medicine. Visit www.hospitalmedicine.org for more information on how you can lend your expertise to help SHM improve the care of hospitalized patients.
This month, The Hospitalist spotlights Amith Skandhan, MD, FHM, a hospitalist, a director/physician liaison for clinical documentation improvement and core faculty member in the Internal Medicine Residency Program at Southeast Alabama Medical Center in Dothan, Ala., and clinical faculty member at the Alabama College of Osteopathic Medicine also in Dothan. Dr. Skandhan is the cofounder and current president of the SHM Wiregrass Chapter and is an active member of SHM’s Annual Conference and Performance Measurement Reporting committees.
When did you join SHM, and what prompted you to apply for your current committee roles?
When I did my residency and chief residency at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Mercy, I was fascinated by my faculty hospitalists – they seemed to have mastered a balance of managing acute, high intensity care with a lifestyle that encouraged exploring personal hobbies. But as I started my new role as a hospitalist at Southeast Alabama Medical Center, I discovered nuances to the profession that I had not seen during my graduate medical education.
There were many things that were not sufficiently taught during clinical training that were required in my day-to-day practice, like clinical documentation improvement, practice management, billing, coding, and so forth. I also quickly understood how vast and dynamic hospital medicine really was. While looking for an outlet to voice my questions, concerns, and curiosity, I decided to join SHM, which has helped me find and apply the techniques I’d been looking for to further my career as a hospitalist.
I’m now fortunate to be a part of SHM’s national committees, which involve hospitalists of various backgrounds and experiences, who work together to improve the overall quality of inpatient medicine. I currently serve on the Performance Reporting Measurement Committee and the Annual Conference Committee. My interests in reviewing the ever-evolving policies of health care made me apply to be a part of the Performance Reporting Measurement Committee. We work very closely with the Public Policy Committee, analyzing written policies and subsequently offering our recommendations. It’s been fulfilling to be a part of a committee that works towards developing policies that support a good quality of care on such a large scale.
My penchant for organizing events and bringing people together based on common ground led me to apply for the Annual Conference Committee. We meet every week to discuss various topics, choose and invite speakers, and help organize the entire event, which will host close to 5,000 hospitalists later this year. It has made me appreciate being a member of an organization that provides hospitalists with opportunities for education and growth. I’m hopeful that the attendees next year will find the conference to be a worthwhile experience!
As the president of SHM’s Wiregrass Chapter, how has the chapter grown since its establishment in May 2015?
Our chapter is based in Dothan, a small, rural Alabama town where Southeast Alabama Medical Center is located. The chapter covers the counties of lower Alabama and the panhandle of Florida. We named the chapter after a special species of grass that grows in this region.
When we started the chapter, our goal was to bring the best and brightest of hospital medicine to our region to give talks on hot topics in the field and also to use their expertise to guide inpatient care in our hospital system. We aggressively marketed the events to bring in large crowds of medical professionals, and we consistently average around 70-80 attendees in our meetings. Bringing in leaders from the field helped create an atmosphere of learning and inspired us to grow and develop our hospitalist program. We now closely work with hospital medicine groups in surrounding rural areas toward improving inpatient hospital care.
During these past years, we also realized that, for the further growth of our chapter, we would need to nurture an interest in hospital medicine among future generations of doctors, and this realization led to the creation of our medical student and resident wing. So far, the students have been very enthusiastic about participating in SHM-related events, and I hope that continues. We also developed a mentor-mentee program, in which we paired selected medical students with hospitalists to help guide future careers in acute care medicine. This year, we have also been helping the hospital medicine division at Southeast Alabama Medical Center create a clinical research track for medical students. To that end, we have just completed our second annual poster competition where we presented around 50 posters in the areas of clinical vignettes, quality improvement, and original research.
In addition, the chapter is very active with community activities. We took notice of the fact that many of our patients and community members were unaware of what hospitalists did because they could not understand how our work was different from that of primary care physicians. Our members have therefore participated in TV, radio, and newspaper interviews to help elucidate the role of hospitalists in patient care. We have also periodically visited primary care physician offices, nursing homes, senior citizen groups, and cancer support groups to educate these patients on various facets of health care and how hospitalists influence these areas.
In 2014, we organized a “walk with a hospitalist” event, for which we set up a half-mile “admission to discharge” scenario explaining the role of hospitalists and other departments involved in patient care. This year, in hopes of improving patient literacy in our region, we held a “shop with a doc” event, where the Southeast Alabama Medical Center hospitalists teamed up with dietitians and taught patients how food and lifestyle influenced their chronic medical illnesses. This was followed by physicians and dietitians shopping with patients in the grocery store, educating them on healthy choices and label reading.
We’re incredibly grateful for the support that we’ve received from our medical and patient communities; they’ve been critical in helping our chapter grow as much as it has, and they motivate us to work harder and do more with the chapter. We were honored to receive the SHM’s Rising Star Award at the Hospital Medicine 2017 conference in Las Vegas. We never thought that our little chapter in the American countryside would be chosen, but we’re very thankful to have our efforts recognized on the national stage!