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Career Spotlight: Sandeep Pagali

Written by: Dr. Sandeep Pagali
Published on: May 18, 2023

Dr. Sandeep Pagali
Sandeep Pagali, MD, MPH, AGSF, FHM

This is the latest in a series of interviews with hospital medicine clinicians connected to the Society of Hospital Medicine (SHM) to share insights, knowledge, and expertise about career opportunities, growth, and development. Today we hear from Sandeep Pagali, MD, MPH, AGSF, FHM

Dr. Pagali is an assistant professor of medicine, working as a geriatric hospitalist at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. He is passionate about his hospitalist practice and serves in different leadership roles within the hospital medicine division as unit medical director for the geriatric inpatient unit, director of medical triage performed by the medical officer of the day, and associate research chair. His topics of research interest include optimizing care for delirium and dementia in older adults, care transitions, and new models of care delivery for older adults. He developed the Mayo Delirium Prediction tool. He led the implementation of telehospitalist triage during the COVID-19 pandemic. He is an active member of SHM and the American Geriatrics Society.

1. Why did you choose hospital medicine as a specialty?

I enjoy the acute care practice and fast pace of clinical care for patients while collaborating with multidisciplinary teams. The diverse pathology in hospital medicine excites me. 

2. What does your typical workday look like?

My workday is 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. mostly. On most of my workdays, I wake up at 5 a.m. and work out for 30 minutes. I do chart reviews of patients for about 30 minutes, before getting to the hospital. I participate in team bedside rounds and discussions from 8 a.m. to noon. After this, we do some charting, family conferences, didactic topics, administrative meetings, and pursue academic endeavors for three or four hours. We then huddle as a team and discuss care plans, get to know new patients, and follow up on any active issues. We do team handoff at about 6:30 p.m. and wrap up any pending administrative and documentation aspects by 7 p.m. I plan to spend time with family for at least two hours around dinner and sleep for at least six hours.

3. What’s unique about your career or career path?

I am an international medical graduate. While completing my United States Medical Licensing Examination, I simultaneously did a Master of Public Health course at Missouri State University, which gave me a wonderful perspective on the U.S. health care system. After my residency at Southern Illinois University, I completed a geriatric fellowship at Mayo Clinic. Presently I work as a geriatric hospitalist and my geriatric fellowship helped me view patient care things differently as a hospitalist.

I am also involved in leadership roles as the unit medical director and director of medical triage performed by the medical officer of the day. Building on my clinical practice, I also enjoy different patient-centered research and quality improvement projects leading to academic publications. In this journey, some failures helped me learn new perspectives, and a lot of mentors who guided me kindly shared their expertise and support.  

4. Describe an important milestone in your career and what made it significant.

The appointment as a hospitalist staff at Mayo Clinic is an important milestone, that subsequently facilitated excellent mentorship to accelerate my growth. I am also honored to receive the Mayo Clinic Karis Award in 2021 for demonstrating Mayo Clinic values of respect, integrity, compassion, healing, teamwork, innovation, excellence, and stewardship; and the Mayo Clinic, Department of Medicine Laureate award in 2022.

5. What’s been the biggest obstacle in your career?

My lack of assertiveness in the initial phases of my career was a barrier to my success. Many life situations and experiences helped me overcome them in time.

6. What surprised you the most about hospital medicine?

The need to change and the agility required to help the systems adapt to acute care practice changes is fascinating.

7. Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?

I will continue to be a hospitalist, take up more leadership roles, and advance my academic rank to a professor by actively participating in research through external grants to fund hospital medicine-related projects, learner education, clinical practice, and administrative leadership roles.

8. What membership benefits offered by the Society of Hospital Medicine have helped you in your career?

SHM is phenomenal and has many wonderful resources for the hospitalist community. I particularly relied on the following:

  • The Special Interest Groups (SIGs) promote the gathering of hospitalists with similar interests. This helped me network with other hospitalists with similar interests from different institutions. This would not have been possible without the SIG forums.
  • HMX (member online community) also provides a platform to discuss active issues, while promoting awareness of active topics and issues that other hospitalist colleagues across the nation are facing.
  • SHM Leadership Academy helped me enhance and evolve my leadership skills.  

9. Do you belong to any SHM SIGs (special interest groups), chapters, or committees? If so, which ones and why?

I am the engagement and collaboration chair of the Quality Improvement (QI) SIG and have been an active member in this SIG for the last two years given my interest in quality improvement topics.

I am also the vice chair of Interhospital Transfers SIG which connects well with my director of medical triage role.

Given my overall engagement and interest in SHM activities, I partnered and worked with my state chapter leadership group and am serving as the membership director for the Minnesota chapter.  

10. What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?

For unknown circumstances, take a stance and be open to learning from these decisions and situations. Don’t let fear of the unknown limit you from taking the next step and be assertive in your decision.    

11. What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?

Be open to the suggestions of your mentors and well-wishers.

12. If you could trade places for one day with someone else (either a person or profession) in health care, who would it be and why?

I always look up to Dr. M. Caroline Burton as a role model. Dr. Burton is the chair of hospital medicine at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, who made a huge impact in our division by bringing the needed change surrounding the pandemic practices. Dr. Burton is an exemplary leader and always did what was best for all the members of our division with a vision that has always proven to be the right decision. Dr. Burton emphasized and promoted the role of hospitalists and the hospital medicine division at Mayo Clinic by emphasizing and reflecting the prominence and need for the engagement of hospitalists in different hospital care policies and practice decisions. I am always impressed by her strategic planning and execution, alongside a candid and clear vision for our hospitalist practice.

Learn more about SHM and the benefits of membership.