Strong leader propels team efforts
“The Chapter Exemplary Awards Program is important because it encourages higher performance while increasing membership engagement and retaining talent,” said Dr. Skandhan, of Southeast Health Medical Center in Dothan, Ala., and winner of the Most Engaged Chapter Leader award. “Being recognized as the most engaged chapter leader is an honor, especially given the national and international presence of SHM.
“Success is achieved through the help and support of your peers and mentors, and I am fortunate to have found them through this organization,” said Dr. Skandhan. “This award brings attention to the fantastic work done by the engaged membership and leadership of the Wiregrass Chapter. This recognition makes me proud to be part of a team that prides itself on improving the quality health and wellbeing of the patients, providers, and public through innovation and collaboration; this is a testament to their work.”
Dr. Skandhan’s activities as a chapter leader included visiting health care facilities in the rural Southeastern United States. “I slowly began to learn how small towns and their economies tied into a health system, how invested the health care providers were towards their communities, and how health care disparities existed between the rural and urban populations,” he explained. “When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, I worried about these hospitals and their providers. COVID-19 was a new disease with limited understanding of the virus, treatment options, and prevention protocols.” To help smaller hospitals, the Wiregrass Chapter created a weekly check-in for hospital medicine program directors in the state of Alabama, he said.
“We would start the meeting with each participant reporting the total number of cases, ventilator usage, COVID-19 deaths, and one policy change they did that week to address a pressing issue,” Dr. Skandhan said. “Over time the meetings helped address common challenges and were a source of physician well-being.”
In addition, Dr. Skandhan and his chapter colleagues were concerned that academics were taking a back seat to the pandemic, so they rose to the challenge by designing a Twitter-based poster competition using judges from across the country. “This project was led by one of our chapter leaders, Dr. Arash Velayati of Southeast Health Medical Center,” said Dr. Skandhan. The contest included 82 posters, and the participants were able to showcase their work to a large, virtual audience.
Dr. Skandhan and colleagues also decided to partner with religious leaders in their community to help combat the spread of misinformation about COVID-19. “We teamed with the Southern Alabama Baptist Association and Interfaith Council to educate these religious leaders on the issues around COVID-19,” and addressed topics including masking and social distancing, and provided resources for religious leaders to tackle misinformation in their communities, he said.
“As chapter leaders, we need to learn to think outside the box,” Dr. Skandhan emphasized. “We can affect health care quality when we strive to solve more significant problems by bringing people together, brainstorming, and collaborating. SHM and chapter-level engagement provide us with that opportunity.“Hospitalists are often affected by the downstream effects of limited preventive care addressing chronic illnesses. Therefore, we have to strive to see the bigger picture. As we make changes at our local institutions and chapter levels, we will start seeing the improvement we hope to see in the care of our patients and our communities.”