Shikha Sundaram, MD, MSCI, describes herself as a conductor, spending her days directing the many moving parts of a large multidisciplinary program. Although it’s not exactly what she learned in medical school, it’s the essential role she plays as medical director of the Pediatric Liver Transplant Program at Children’s Hospital Colorado.
Dr. Sundaram is responsible for helping her team answer the big questions: Who are we? Where are we? Where do we want to be? How do we get there from here? She’s also involved in the “nitty gritty,” helping the team make every day decisions about patient care as well as developing protocols, monitoring outcomes and helping her team work together effectively. She enjoys the role but admits it’s the patients who get her out of bed in the morning.
“Seeing a sick child get better is still the best part of my job.”
Yet it’s the skilled, calm leadership she brings to her team that sets her apart, notes Dan Hyman, MD, chief quality officer at Children’s Colorado. “Dr. Sundaram has the ability to bring people together to reach a common goal, and she does so with great respect for all of her colleagues, their patients and families,” he said.
Over the last two years, Dr. Sundaram has helped her team provide the best possible care by tackling the historical culture of medicine practiced in silos. Treating complicated transplant patients requires a team that can address every aspect of a child’s health. To ensure great care, Dr. Sundaram makes sure everyone on the large multidisciplary team feels comfortable sharing their perspectives.
“Every person,” says Dr. Sundaram, “has a very important voice, and if all voices aren’t heard in a timely and safe way then we’re not providing ideal patient care.”
In the high stakes transplant world, this often boils down to feeling comfortable questioning fellow team members.
“We see these as healthy discussions,” she said. “It’s a normal part of our team dynamics – we push each other and we ask hard questions.”
Dr. Sundaram believes the shift in culture has impacted the team’s success. First, patient survival rates have improved. Second, transplant volume has increased. Third—while difficult to quantify—is an increased sense of shared purpose.
She explains how sometimes things don’t go as planned. Recently the team experienced a difficult loss. She was humbled by her team’s reaction, describing it as “the good that came out of the bad.”
“The way our team came together to support one another was something I have not seen in the almost 10 years that I’ve been here.”
“The little things that our team does – every single day – simply because they are the right thing to do makes me really proud of be part of this team.”
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