Educational Innovation Award

“Innovation is the ability to see change as an opportunity – not a threat” — Anonymous

Since Dr. Pawan Suri, Assistant Professor and Chairman of the Division of Observation Medicine in the Department of Emergency Medicine, joined the VCU faculty in 2008, he has embraced every opportunity to improve patient care and clinical teaching. Board certified in Emergency Medicine and Internal Medicine, he was recruited to develop an Observation Unit and Observation Medicine program. Designed to provide care to patients requiring treatment best not performed in the Emergency Department but not requiring in¬patient admission, the Clinical Decision Unit (CDU) started at five beds and will soon grow to 18 beds. Developing this unit was no small undertaking. As Joseph Ornato, M.D., Professor and Chairman of Emergency Medicine explains, “developing the CDU required clinical and educational interactions with all major medical services of the medical center to develop safe, effective, and efficient pathways allowing for extended diagnostics and therapeutics of acute complex patients in less than 24 hours. The CDU has dramatically changed admitting and care practices of MCVP faculty for patients presenting to the Emergency Department.”

Dr. Suri recognized the benefits for patients of providing care in a more appropriate setting, but he also recognized the educational opportunities the CDU provided for his residents and developed the country’s first required Observation Medicine rotation. The rotation provides residents with “experiences in medicine, surgery, neurology, gastroenterology, infectious diseases and many other disciplines that they would not otherwise obtain” says Timothy C. Evans, M.D., Emergency Medicine Program Director. The program “allows them to see the evolution of a variety of disease states, to understand the consequences of actions or inactions taken in the emergency department on patients’ outcomes, and to appreciate more fully the needs of consulting physicians.” Veronica K. Sikka, M.D., Ph.D., M.H.A., M.P.H., current resident, agrees, “We are actively involved in the admission, rounding, and discharge process and are seamlessly incorporated as part of the CDU team.”

Dr. Suri routinely receives outstanding teaching evaluations and is revered by his residents for his dedication to learning. He often refers to the saying, “The eyes do not see what the mind does not know” and he makes sure that he and his trainees know as much as possible. As resident Anthony Fields, M.D., explains, “He is a veritable walking search engine when it comes to medical literature and is a huge proponent of evidence-based medicine and its practical application.”

Colleagues look to Dr. Suri for guidance as well, explains Julie Mayglothling, M.D., Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine. “He is my go-to guy with most medical (and non-medical) questions. He is approachable, articulate, and never the least bit condescending.” Kirk Cumpston, D.O., Assistant Professor of Clinical Toxicology, describes Dr. Suri as skillfully balancing his teaching of “facts, diagnostics, differentials and therapies, with compassion, empathy and the highest ethical and moral standards.” Dr. Suri’s personal commitment to lifelong learning is exemplified by his role as one of VCU’s first Physician Informaticists and his recently completed VCU Executive Fellowship in Physician Leadership.

Dr. Suri’s tireless efforts have resulted in the country’s first formal University-approved Division of Observation Medicine. He is also the first Program Director for the new VCU Emergency Medicine/Internal Medicine residency program, the 12th such program in the nation. This program combines training leading to Board eligibility in both specialties. Dr. Suri also serves as Chair of the American College of Emergency Physician’s Section on Combined EM-IM training.

As Dr. Evans summarizes, “He has made our students, our residents, our department and therefore our medical school and hospital better as a result of his efforts.” For his efforts to go beyond his successes and continuously improve care for our patients and teaching for his students, we honor Dr. Pawan Suri with the 2011 Educational Innovation award.