Dr. Adhi Sharma took over as president at Mount Sinai South Nassau hospital in Oceanside on Sept. 1 after previously serving as its chief medical officer and its executive vice president for clinical and professional affairs.
Sharma succeeds Richard Murphy, who was president for nine years and had worked in health-care leadership roles for more than four decades. Sharma was chosen by the hospital’s board of directors after a six-month search and will be the hospital’s first physician leader, as the presidency has typically been a chief executive officer role led by those with business backgrounds.
As he prepared to take over the role, Sharma sat down for a question-and-answer session with the Herald.
Herald: What are your thoughts and feelings on taking on a new role?
Sharma: There are a lot of emotions. Specifically, I’m certainly humbled by the trust that’s been put in me, and the staff that we have here has been so amazing. I’m excited to take on the role and eager to continue the momentum that we have built up this year to keep going forward. When we came out of the pandemic, a lot of hospitals came out not as strong as they went in, and we actually came out stronger. That was because of our ability to respond and the close-knit group of staff we have that really stepped up to the plate. Everybody worked side by side, so we came out with a lot of momentum, and we’re very eager to keep that momentum going forward.
Herald: Can you describe your roles and duties and how they compare to what you were doing previously?
Sharma: My role [before Sept. 1], I was chief medical officer and executive vice president [of the hospital], so I had a number of areas that I provided oversight for, including [information technology]. I worked closely with nursing, all of the quality and regulatory components, as well as patient experience components, so there were a lot of areas that I oversaw.
It will be an interesting transition to let go of everything that I’ve been involved with at the level that I’ve been involved . . . I will have to backfill my current role, and once I do that, that’s when that transition will occur. As long as I’m serving two roles, I’ll end up staying closer to the projects that I’m involved with now. [This role] reflects where health care is today. We are much more focused on quality of care, clinical programming and population health, and much less focused on contracting and all the business elements of health care.
Herald: What are some of your major goals going forward?
Sharma: The main goal is in three parts. The first is to keep that forward momentum, so all of the projects we have going come to fruition, and to see them to completion and any hiccups or obstacles, we have to make sure we overcome those. The second is to steward the integration with the system [that comes with the planned $400 million expansion], that’s a very high priority for us . . . The third is to continue to provide the care we’re known for to keep our staff engaged through this process and make sure their wellness is being minded. Because of the pandemic, there’s a lot of fatigue setting in for our staff . . . Getting our staff and our community to whatever the next phase of this is . . . will be the third priority — to see us through the pandemic.
Herald: What are your thoughts on your predecessor Richard Murphy, and has he given you any advice?
Sharma: He’s been mentoring me for this role for the last six years. I’ve been working very closely with him. I first started working with him in 2007, so I’ve known him a long time . . . While I’ve been here, he’s been working very closely with me. He’s an excellent role model for any hospital leadership. It’s easy to oversimplify this sentence, but the gravity of it cannot be underestimated: He gets it. I’ve worked with a lot of CEOs, and he’s a CEO that gets it . . . It’s so easy for . . . a non-clinical CEO to just look at numbers, look at volumes, look at budget reports, things like that. He doesn’t just do that. He always sees the big picture, and he always sees the totality of that picture.
Herald: What specific challenges do you face taking on this new role during a pandemic, especially with the Delta variant?
Sharma: There are going to be interesting challenges related to this [vaccine] mandate [for health care workers] and what that’s going to mean for health care. I support that mandate. I think it’s the right thing to do for health care. It’s the right thing to do for our patients, it’s the right thing to do for our staff, so it was great that we were able to get that mandate in New York state. There are staff that may find it so objectionable that they leave health care, so we may see a concern with staffing as it relates to people who just opt to not get vaccinated. That’s going to be a challenge. I think that Delta has shown us that even when you think you’re out of the woods, you’re really not.
Herald: Community outreach has always been a part of the hospital. What plans do you have to continue that?
Sharma: Community outreach is more important than ever. Getting information to people, that’s been a high priority for us. Our Truth in Medicine polls have been a great vehicle for us to really just assess what the pulse is of the community . . . We’re very eager to partner with our communities, partner with our elected officials to get education to our communities. The most important thing in health care is that people are educated . . . If we have food deserts in our community, if we have access issues in our community, we want to see how we can solve those problems. The [Covid-19] ‘Vaxmobile’ is a great example of solving an issue of access to vaccines. We’ve learned a lot about our community through this pandemic, and we want to put all that knowledge to work. There are some silver linings in this pandemic, and our relationship with the community has never been tighter.
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