Dr. Raman Palabindala loves his job as a hospitalist for many reasons, but one especially stands out.
“We talk to the families every day, and multiple times in a day if needed. We take the time to establish that relationship with patients and families. We take care of patients as a team,” said Palabindala, an assistant professor of medicine. “We are there in the hospital 24 hours when patients and families need us.”
That's his role as a hospitalist, a physician who exclusively cares for adult inpatients, whether they've recently had surgery, come through the Emergency Department, or were admitted for other reasons. “We are the one and only attending-based service for the entire hospital, unlike other services that have residents and fellows,” said Palabindala, who came to the Medical Center in December 2015. “We don't have a clinic outside the hospital.”
His dedication to his patients and his excellence in medicine have been recognized by ACP Hospitalist magazine. Palabindala is among the Top Hospitalists for 2016, one of 10 physicians chosen from dozens of nominations nationwide by the editorial board of the publication of the American College of Physicians. At age 35, he's one of the youngest honorees in the program.
“I work really hard in life,” said Palabindala, the Medical Center's lead hospitalist. “I knew when I was in my residency that I wanted to be a hospitalist, and I made contacts with national leaders to learn as much as I can.”
He was nominated by his colleagues at Southeast Alabama Medical Center in Dothan, where he joined the staff in 2012 as a hospitalist in the Department of Internal Medicine. He served on the department's clinical teaching staff at the Alabama College of Osteopathic Medicine, and in 2015, he took on additional duties at SAMC as a home health director and clerkship director.
He is a graduate of the Kamineni Institute of Medical Sciences in Narketpally, India. Palabindala completed residency training in internal medicine at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center, serving as chief medical resident from 2011-12.
Palabindala “obviously had clear leadership skills from the moment he set foot on campus,” said Dr. Peter Arnold, associate professor of plastic surgery and director of UMMC's Division of Hospital Medicine within the Department of Medicine.
“When he decided to come work at UMMC, there were some pretty significant changes going on in the department,” Arnold said. “He very quickly identified some potential improvements in utilizing data and transforming the department and the work it does into one that is more integrated with the hospital.”
“As a hospitalist, we also think of quality care, patient safety and the finances involved in patient care,” Palabindala said. “We look at the larger spectrum: How will this affect the entire health-care system? How will this affect patient discharge? We do this all the time to become more efficient, to improve length of stays, and to improve appropriate reimbursements for the hospital.”
UMMC has seven hospitalists and hopes to be fully staffed at 14 no later than next summer, Palabindala said. The fast-growing division also includes four nurse practitioners and three nurse coordinators, he said.
“We're expanding the hospitalist numbers in order to accommodate higher volumes of inpatient care,” Arnold said.
“Twenty years ago, there were no hospitalists. But now, across the country there are 50,000,” Palabindala said.
Palabindala also has teaching duties, but spends many day and night hours attending to patients in the Adult Hospital, including many on the fourth floor of Wiser Hospital for Women and Infants which serves as an overflow area for the main hospital.
“I like the activity. You bring the patient from a very sick condition to being sent home,” he said. “The spectrum of patients you are involved with is huge. I enjoy the medicine every day, and the adrenaline rush you get.”
“Years ago, when you'd go to your personal physician and they'd admit you to the hospital, they would come see you there,” Arnold explained. But today, “the hospitalists are your primary care physician when you are in the hospital.”
Palabindala “is a super guy,” Arnold said. “He's very easy to work with, and when you call him and ask for help or a consult, he immediately asks what he can do to help you. He is thinking specifically about the needs of the patient.”
Palabindala grew up in a very small town in south India. “Mississippi feels like home,” he said. “I don't like the rush of big cities. I'm blessed with two beautiful children, and I like to cook for my kids and play with them.”
The Madison resident is married to fellow hospitalist Dr. Amala Pamarthy, a nephrology fellow at the Medical Center.
Palabindala is a fellow of the American College of Physicians and the Society of Hospital Medicine. He's the founder and president of SHM's Wiregrass chapter, which won the 2015 Silver Chapter Award. He has served on national committees for the SHM and currently serves on the organization's IT committee. He plans to start a local SHM chapter in Jackson.
Dr. Chirag Acharya, an internal medicine resident, has accompanied Palabindala on visits to inpatients experiencing gastrointestinal problems. “We learn a lot from him,” Acharya said. “He is an expert in rare pathology besides taking care of the bread and butter of medicine.”
Palabindala provides exceptional patient care with true dedication, Acharya said. “He is a genuine combination of professional attitude with a humanitarian touch, while providing exceptional patient care and outstanding teaching. It makes him a unique leader in the field of hospital medicine.”
His patients, Palabindala said, remind him “of the beauty of being an internist every day.
“I never get bored,” he said. “Being an internist and taking care of sick patients, and learning every day … I can't imagine being anything else.”