Tell us about which medical school you attended and why it made the top of your list.
Growing up as a first-generation immigrant here in Charlotte, I was the youngest and first of my siblings with the opportunity to head outside Charlotte for college. I attended undergraduate on a scholarship to UNC Chapel Hill and when medical school came up, Wake Forest offered a great program and attended on a full scholarship. These scholarships made school possible for me by not having to take on a huge amount of debt. Luckily, both these programs were also close to home and family which was important.
Where did you complete your residency? How/Why did you end up choosing that location?
I completed my residency at Wayne State University – Detroit Medical Center. After I made the decision to focus on emergency medicine and meeting with one of the directors at Wake Forest Medical School who suggested to take the opportunity to attend an urban program that was a separate department and not a division of a surgery department. It was important to find a large program to experience the patient diversity.
Tell us more about how you came to choose the field of medicine?
I always had an interest in science, and I knew it was what I wanted to do. My family had a lot to do with my work ethic and how I ultimately chose the field of medicine.
My father was a teacher in India who had a master’s in education and concluded he wouldn’t be able to raise a family of six in the United States on a teacher’s salary while trying to pay down debt taken to immigrate. While he worked three jobs, he studied accounting books in his spare time and took the CPA exam and passed on his first try. When I was young, he got a job in Manhattan and would commute from Charlotte, Monday through Friday, for almost two years to obtain enough hours to qualify for a CPA license. Eventually, he opened his own accounting firm.
How did you choose Emergency Medicine as your specialty?
My mother was always encouraging me to give back to society. She stressed education and the medical profession and gave up her professional aspirations to guide her children. I attended an inner-city high school and one day, while talking to a friend in the school parking lot, his cousin who was standing next to me was shot dead and I didn’t know what to do or how to help him. I’ll never forget that feeling and knew then I wanted to learn all I could so that I could always help people in need.
Emergency medicine offered all the aspects I hold dear to being a physician – taking care of patients from all aspects of society and provide high standard of care equally.
What do you enjoy most about your day-to-day practice?
As a provider, I still enjoy the medicine part of it all. I am a clinician first and foremost and I like taking care of patients and being part of their lives to help in their time of need.
Coming into this directorship, I had already had some exposure to ED administration while serving as a chief resident in final year of residency and Assistant ED Medical Director at Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center.
As a Medical Director, I have been able to further learn skill sets that help with interpersonal interactions e.g., time management and conflict resolution which has allowed me to grow into this leadership space.
What led you to practice with MEMA?
In 2002, right out of residency, I was looking to come back to Charlotte to work and help with the community here. At the time, I interviewed with MEMA’s President, Bob Petrilli, MD, and my interaction with him was genuine. I enjoyed meeting with him and learning about the leadership with the group. Learning there was little attrition with the physicians in the group and docs who spent their whole career with MEMA was promising.
MEMA offered me the opportunity to come home to and continue to serve the people I promised I would. I have always felt like I fulfilled my promise and am proud of that.
Please share with us your journey of becoming a Medical Director.
Novant Health Mint Hill Medical Center opened in October 2018 and I had the unique opportunity to be part of it from the planning stages. From picking out doors to organizing the flow of the ED, it’s not something most emergency physicians get to be part of but having that level of involvement from the beginning has been instrumental and rewarding.
I have always enjoyed the management roll from participating in committees, serving on volunteer boards, to this directorship at Novant Health Mint Hill Medical Center. I was Assistant Medical Director of ED for Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center prior to this directorship in Mint Hill. When the new hospital opened in Mint Hill, I was honored MEMA and Novant offered me the opportunity.
Has there been one patient, staff member, or caregiver story that has stuck with you during your MEMA tenure?
There have been so many patients and stories to share and we learn to take the good with the bad. Once, when I was in residence, a father – who was a brilliant engineer – came into the ED with his 6-year-old son who had been sitting on his lap while cutting the grass on a riding lawnmower. The son hit the gear and somehow ended up underneath the mower and lost his leg. This family’s story has always stuck with me and reminded me how quickly our lives can change and how we are there for our patients through the toughest moments.
As a Medical Director, tell us more about what that role entails and what do you find most gratifying about leading your team?
The support of my team is by far the most enjoyable aspect of being Medical Director. We all rely on each other and they know I have their backs as well. The level of patient care is extraordinary with this team and I am glad to be part of it.
Are you a member of any associations, societies, or organizations?
I am a member of the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), North Carolina College of Emergency Physicians (NCCEP) and the North Carolina Medical Society.
I am currently the past-President for NCCEP and have been involved in various leadership roles for ten years with the organization. I have enjoyed being involved and knowing that our specialty is getting representation.
What was your dream job when you were a child?
I knew I wanted to be a scientist and I really think I got my dream job – to do exactly what I am doing now.
If you could share any advice for other physicians who are interested in stepping up to leadership positions, what would that be:
My recommendation would be for them to understand there is hard work involved and work doesn’t always begin at 9am and stop at 5pm. It is a time commitment that often takes away from family and not always doing the most gratifying jobs…but it’s necessary and the hard work pays off. Having this work ethic will help prolong your professional career and is something that can be extremely gratifying. MEMA does a great job at encouraging new leaders and cultivating an atmosphere where people want to step up.
What about Charlotte excites you?
Charlotte is such an exciting, growing place with so much change and invigoration in the city. There is a lot of positive energy. It’s been fun to see it grow and be part of that growth.
Do you have any hobbies, interests, secret powers that are unique to you?
I have a lot of hobbies! I was a pretty good Bhangra dancer, a Punjabi folk dance style and speak Hindi and Punjabi fluently. I am big into sports and still keep up with as much as possible with tennis, golf, and trying to stay fit the best I can. I have always enjoyed hiking too. Of course, spending time with my kids and family is high on the list too.