Postfellowship Pathways

Choosing a career in health care administration


Dr. Shah is chief medical officer, Mount Sinai Queens, director of quality and patient safety education, Mount Sinai Health System, associate professor of medicine/GI and geriatrics/palliative medicine, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, N.Y.

How did your career pathway lead you into hospital administration?

My career pathway into hospital administration was not by design. Since college, I have always enjoyed building and managing programs. As chief resident, I was exposed to operational and managerial aspects of running an internal medicine residency program as well as an outpatient clinic. This program first exposed me to quality improvement and patient-safety functions within a hospital. I continued to build on this during my GI fellowship and in my first few years as faculty in our division. Patient safety and quality improvement involve the critical thinking and quantitative aspects of research applied to problems in the workplace. This interest and skill, along with my growing experience in management, led me to explore opportunities in hospital administration.

What are your responsibilities in a typical week?

As a chief medical officer at a smaller hospital, my scope of responsibilities includes overseeing health care quality and patient safety, building our outpatient practice and new clinical service lines, building a cohesive medical staff, handling disciplinary and professionalism issues, and overseeing six support departments. I work closely with our chief operating officer, chief nursing officer, executive director, and site chiefs.

Dr. Brijen J. Shah chief medical officer, Mount Sinai Queens, director of quality and patient safety education, Mount Sinai Health System, associate professor of medicine/GI and geriatrics/palliative medicine, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, N.Y.
Dr. Brijen J. Shah
Up to this point, no week seems to be like the one before! A typical week could involve addressing any patient safety events and creating system-safety solutions to prevent them in the future. There will be meetings concerning ongoing quality improvement initiatives such as sepsis care, readmissions, and hospital-acquired infections. Each week, there will be a handful of patient grievances that will need to be addressed. I see patients a few hours a week and some weeks include teaching in the medical school or with housestaff at our larger campus. I visit the floors or our outpatient practices a few times to interact with frontline staff as well as patients to hear how things are working.

What do you enjoy most about working in hospital administration?

I enjoy the work I do related to making care safer for our patients and for those who work in our hospital. I take each patient-safety event personally. The teamwork necessary to understand these events and develop creative solutions is extremely rewarding. I enjoy mentoring our faculty and hospital managers to achieve their own goals. Lastly, I have enjoyed working with professionals with backgrounds that differ from my own. I have learned an incredible amount about hospital operations, leadership, financing, as well as legal and labor-relations issues from our staff in other departments.

What do you find most challenging about working in hospital administration?

The scope of work in my role at my current hospital is very broad. It can be a challenge to focus on long-term goals given the number of “fires” that creep up during the week. I always try to keep patients and staff at the center of my decision making. However, a hospital is a complex organism and decisions also have a financial and operational impact. One challenge is to know and understand this impact and then work with other leaders to develop a solution that works for all.

The other challenge is managing conflict in a way that leads to creative solutions satisfying the needs of multiple stakeholders. We are constantly challenged by limited resources (including time). These challenges are inherent to any leadership position. I am fortunate to work within a leadership team that is collaborative; they are an invaluable resource when these issues arise.

What are the different hospital administration positions that are available to GIs?

More than ever, the options for administrative work in health care have expanded. There are hospital-based roles within a department (e.g., director of endoscopy, clinical chief, director of quality improvement/patient safety for GI) and larger roles in the hospital-at-large (e.g., chief operating officer, chief medical officer, chief quality officer). These roles require certain technical skills and knowledge as well as experience within patient care. Other opportunities include the medical board, credentials committee, or serving as a member of a hospital committee (e.g., pharmacy, perioperative, infection control, process improvement). Since hospitals and health systems have expanded into the outpatient setting, additional positions include medical director for a practice, director of population health, or a leadership role in clinical operations.

Next Article: