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Rajee Hari:
Thank you, Dr. Vedala, for joining me in the podcast.
This is my first guest and I’m very excited to have you on the podcast.
Congratulations again on being the VP and Regional CMO of Memorial Hermann in Houston.
Can you tell me a little bit about your role and the responsibilities in the hospital?

Dr. Vedala:
Absolutely, and thank you for the opportunity to participate in the podcast.
So my role as chief medical officer is over two hospitals.
One Memorial Hermann Woodlands and one Memorial Hermann Northeast.
So my roles and responsibilities are over the medical staff quality and patient safety, as well as addressing peer review and these types of processes within the hospital medical staff.
We’re, of course, also involved in strategic planning and other types of initiatives that the hospitals and the system want us to engage with.

Rajee Hari:
Oh, fantastic.
So what’s your current challenge that you’re facing that you feel can be addressed by a staffing agency or you feel something that needs to be addressed immediately in terms of staffing?

Dr. Vedala:
So definitely, as I think all of the hospital systems and just medical offices well felt through the pandemic is an incredible, incredible staffing challenge.
So through that process, there were a lot of hospitals that had to engage with staffing agencies.
And of course, the biggest challenge being the nursing shortage that required a large number of contract nurses to be able to come into the hospitals.
And so over the last fiscal year, all of the hospitals have been slowly trying to adjust back to the normal that was pre pandemic of a much lower contract nursing type of scenario.
So with this, I think the community and the employees have looked at ways to try to retain the nurses and staff that are there.
So creating a culture where the staff feel that we are valuing them, that we are valuing patient and health safety and empowering them to do the best job they can has been really the big challenge.
And staffing agencies, of course, have been integral in trying to fill the void as we try to scale up and provide excellent candidates for each system to be able to fill that goal.

Rajee Hari:
Great, thank you so much.
It definitely gives us an idea about what the scenario right there is.
With the pandemic and the medical staffing shortages, the staffing agencies are also trying to balance that gap.
And I totally understand where you’re coming from.
What do you think is the key quality and the skill that a medical professional should have to be successful in a hospital environment and also to grow their career within the hospital?

Dr. Vedala:
So I think first and foremost, the luxury of being in a healthcare system is I’m able to speak to what many of us went into healthcare for, which is we’re trying to help people and we hope that that is the paramount reason that we want people to engage with us.
So if you have that endeavor of really trying to help people, then allow the process of learning, which occurs throughout healthcare, to be your paramount goal.
And so for us, when we try to engage people, we want to assure that we’re in a market of high growth.
Texas and Houston have had a continual, generally growing population.
Memorial Hermann has eleven hospitals, but the two hospitals I manage have had remarkable growth over the last five to ten years.
And with that remarkable growth comes a need for change.
So for physicians and staff that are coming in, first, we want that culture of patient quality and safety.
Second, we want that sense that this is a continually changing environment, so help us by being able to adapt to that.
And then third is we want leaders.
We want people who want to raise their hand, who want to help us make changes to try to improve patient quality and safety.
So those are the things that make us excited with health staff that come in.
Of course, every health staff member is going to have variable types of proclivities and abilities.
And so it’s not to say everyone can manage all of the things that we may want.
You may be good in the role that you’re at, but the bottom line is we want patient quality and safety to be our paramount kind of North Star for every employee.
And then if we can leverage these other skill sets as they grow and that’s also part of the culture of Memorial Hermann, is to try to provide benefits that allow growth of both regular allied health staff as well as medical staff.

Rajee Hari:
As far as your career is concerned, you are a cardiologist.
You were with a clinic in Condro.
Can you tell us a little bit about your growth within Memorial Hermann?

Dr. Vedala:
So I moved to Texas in 2014 after being in Ann Arbor, Michigan for Single specialty cardiology group in Ann Arbor.
I moved to Conroe area in 2014 and was with a private practice group of a small group of just four docs from 2014 to 2017 and then 2017 until 2022, I was with a Memorial Hermann Medical Group cardiology practice.
In each of those particular roles, I always tried to advocate for processes and systematic options to try to improve patient care and quality.
Got myself involved at each of those levels in various either hospital or service line driven programs.
And so just kind of raising my hand, participating, wanting to make change is really what escalated my leadership pathway.
That leadership pathway was kind of all homegrown.
I didn’t have an MBA, I didn’t take any other courses or things of that nature.
It was just real world training.
And so within Memorial Hermann, because it’s a large system and because they have kind of a process of leadership it was just a gradual acceleration.
The system and the service line recognized my desire to try to participate in that.
And so I just went down what is my usual route of just kind of participating and voicing opportunities and helping the medical staff and the hospital get the quality outcomes that we want and eventually these things get recognized.
An opportunity came up for the position and so then they asked if I’d be interested.
And after a lot of soul searching of switching from a clinical role to an administrative role, came to that conclusion.
After 29 years of kind of clinical role where that was the paramount and then administration was on the side, now I flipped it.
So administration is the primary and my clinical roles are still there, but reduced.
But I think in the end, that allows me to try to help even more patients.
So, just on a broader scale.

Rajee Hari:
This is great because this is something that any new graduate who wants to pursue cardiology can gain some insight through your career path as well.
This is like a great role model out there for them.
So I hope whoever is a listener and if they are pursuing cardiology, this is something that they can definitely reach out to you or just listen to the podcast and see where they can get the inspiration from.
So thank you so much for sharing that.
Coming back to Memorial Hermann, is there any specific kind of an approach that you have for recruiting?
Do you have anything that you feel that you have to do to retain your top talent?
What is your thought process in terms of hiring and retaining the top talent?

Dr. Vedala:
So, I think the challenge for a large system, the large system is always recruiting, right, in various different areas, various different service lines.
And so I find that the system approach can sometimes be challenging.
So within Memorial Hermann, the department is called talent acquisition.
Talent acquisition has various portions from allied health staff to physician staff.
And within the physician staff, they are trying to hire across an employed group, across aligned physicians, across sometimes just service line, direct employment with the hospital.
And so these types of different types of recruitment platforms really require the service line or the physician champion to be engaged with the talent acquisition team.
With Memorial Hermann being a large system, trying to keep our prospective physician staff engaged.
So I think a lot of it is getting that initial filter of who you want to interview, engaging on that interview to identify the key questions, and then after identifying that that individual is good and getting the input from all of the different team members keeping that physician engaged through the process.
Because the process, unfortunately, with background checks and credentialing, can take time.
And sometimes I find that can be frustrating to physicians waiting to hear.
So patience is what I advocate, but then also really asking my service line or practice leads that that physician is going to be coming into to have continual engagement.
So if you are someone who’s looking for a job and you’re not seeing that regular engagement, if it’s a job you really like, pursue that, find the contact numbers and contact them.
And if they’re not being so engaged then kind of reflect upon how much they may particular want you or if sometimes things change.
And unfortunately in big systems sometimes right hand may not exactly hear what left hand wants them to and kind of just be aware of those things.
So if you’re a prospective person looking for a job, assure that the job that you’re interviewing for is having that appropriate follow through.

Rajee Hari:
So what would be your advice to a medical student or anyone who wants to pursue the field of medicine?
What are the top three things that you would like to advise them about?

Dr. Vedala:
Have a passion for patient care.
So I think, like I said, I think the assuring that you’re in it to try to help people, that has to be the North Star for all of us having a passion for learning.
Part of the reason many of us go into medicine is that there is always something to learn.
There are annual conferences.
The need for continuing medical education allows us to always learn something new.
So I think those two things are really imperative.
And then as I mentioned, the ability to identify and plan for change.
Change management is something that all healthcare is talking about.
I’ve been in the game long enough to know that there’s always something new that wants to be brought up and that can be wholesale infrastructure, changes of DRG codes or payment plans, hospital employment to just small changes in terms of a national guideline that we want to assess or address.
So those things are, I think, what I would recommend and in terms of skill sets, I think skill sets are the ability to communicate and the ability to be a change leader.
Those are things that you want to slowly pick up and it’s many things that aren’t necessarily taught but it’s something that you want to try to pick up because that will make you a more effective physician and more effective leader.
Physicians are leaders in all of their roles.
The importance is to try to identify that and look at the skills that will amplify that.

Rajee Hari:
I mean, change management is something that’s crucial across all platforms need not be just medicine but it’s good to know how much change management, especially after the pandemic, right?
That’s a huge base that everyone is struggling with.
So I mean, I totally agree with what you’ve been saying.
The other main thing is ProteanMed as a staffing agency and I know you’ve been supporting us great deal.
Just wanted to find out that as a medical agency we also try our best to provide the best possible candidates for hospitals, clinics, and also we try to bridge the requirement with the candidate.
What suggestion or advice do you have for staffing agencies like us out there?

Dr. Vedala:
I think knowing who you are contracting with, what is it they particularly need, identifying the issues of that employer as well.
I think if you recognize that it’s a small organization that allows you to have direct feedback quickly, that’s great.
Versus some organizations that are large and where you can help bridge that right hand, left hand issue of the system.
So trying to navigate that and allowing the staffing agency to know who is who and who the contact people are and then trying to amplify what that particular organization really wants or desires.
Because, again, sometimes talent acquisition teams at whatever system may not have all of the particular insights.
With you being having direct contact with potential candidates, you might be able to say, hey, we really need a little more clarity on this, or what is the exact role being have you adequately defined what the role of that physician is going to be?
So I think that helps your potential group or organization that you’re working with and has a value add from a MedStaff agency perspective is trying to hone the message to get the best candidates.

Rajee Hari:
Thank you so much.
That’s definitely something that we need to do.
I understand.
So coming to the fun part of it, can you share a memorable event or experience that you had during your tenure with Memorial Hermann that really changed your perspective on health care or it was AHA moment for you?

Dr. Vedala:
I’m not certain about an AHA moment.
Let me just say a memorable experience.
What I found going from primarily clinical care and just taking care of the patient and making that my passion.
Most of us, in any form of leadership, realize that healthcare is a team game, that to take care of the patient.
It’s not just about the physician and the patient.
It’s about the environment. It’s about the infrastructure. It’s about the ability to be able to give them education, give them support.
But when I took this role and now had regular insight and involvement with things like environmental services, just getting the rooms cleaned, getting the food to the patients in a proper time, the inherent interplay of just being able to get the rooms clean so we can get our patients out of an emergency room, waiting room, through the throughput of the hospital, getting the focus on our dietary team to be able to get the meals in a timely fashion to our patients who are diabetic or who are on medications for blood sugars and how imperative the timing actually interacts in the face of an inpatient, medically managed individual that interplay is.
I think often, frankly, not seen a lot by physicians who are just dealing with that.
And so for me, an AHA moment was the executives and the directors and the managers of a hospital, which is really a healing place.
So I’ve gotten kind of that vernacular of trying to use the hospital is truly a healing place.
It is something that you require multiple people to be involved with, and it’s not just about the type of medicines you put in.
It’s not just about the orders you put in as a physician or the medicines they get.
It is about giving them the education, the comfort to let them heal, allowing the environment and the people who are dealing with the environment to kind of be part of that healing process.
So that really has been a bit of, to me, just a really pleasing thing to see, is the number of people that are involved really in just trying to help people feel better.
So I think that’s just a good thing from a societal perspective, and it’s something that we undervalue.
I think when we just walk into a hospital, we end up just kind of focused on what the task is of the day, and we don’t take that.
Just five to 10 seconds to take a deep breath to realize the environment and the space we’re in is really about helping people, and that’s an incredible privilege to be part of.

Rajee Hari:
It gave me a little bit of goosebump just listening to it. Absolutely.
The group play, how much everybody’s little part comes together to create this wonderful experience for the patients is just mind boggling.
I mean, we always think that especially The Woodlands and the Houston has fantastic medical facility.
I think it’s all thanks to leaders like you and to all the healthcare workers.
They’ve done a phenomenal job, especially during the COVID And how they’ve pivoted to address all the challenges that people have been the healthcare workers have been facing is just mind boggling.
Thank you so much.
I look forward to more from you, and hopefully we’ll have you again on the podcast sometime in the near future.
So thank you.

Dr. Vedala:
Thank you. Thank you so much for the opportunity, and all the best.

Rajee Hari:
Thank you so much. Dr. Vedala. Take care.