Growing up in India, Cordelia V. Sharma, MD, always knew she would have a career in science. Her father, an engineer, had a keen interest in medicine, and her uncle and two sisters were physicians. “I was equally attracted to basic research and science,” she says. “It was a hard choice, but once I was accepted to medical school, I knew which direction I was going to take.”
After completing her medical education in India, she came to the United States for her residency. During a rotation in critical care, Dr. Sharma discovered she loved the challenges, drama and excitement it presented. “You always have to think on your feet and remain calm in a crisis,” she says, “especially when dealing with people in very tenuous situations.”
Now a US citizen, she explored the country while advancing her career at medical facilities in Pennsylvania, Missouri and New York.
In 2012, Westchester Medical Center (WMC) recruited Dr. Sharma to be the Medical Director of WMC’s Surgical Continuum of Care Program, in addition to working in the surgical ICU. Because she is board-certified in both Internal and Critical Care Medicine, Dr. Sharma is uniquely qualified to find ways to improve services throughout each point of patient care: admission, operating room, intensive care, in-patienet unit and discharge. “We have demonstrated, that as a result of this program, our patients have shorter hospital stays, lower hospital-acquired infection rates and improved mortality rates,” says Dr. Sharma.
Around the same time she started at WMC, she was also selected by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) to be one of 73 individuals across the country to participate in its Innovation Advisors Program, which was designed to help health professionals find new ways to improve patient care and population health while reducing costs.
Now, she’s taking on even more responsibility, working with the Hospitalist Program and critical care services at MidHudson Regional Hospital of WMC. “Strengthening these services most definitely enhance patient safety and the quality of care delivered, and it will also be tremendously reassuring to other primary care physicians and surgeons that their patients are being closely watched and their needs attended to in a timely manner,” she says.
To that end, she teaches physician assistants, nurse practitioners, critical care fellows and medical students who rotate in the surgical intensive care unit during daily multidisciplinary patient rounds. As the medical director of the fundamental critical care support course, she also instructs healthcare providers who are not critical-care trained on the basics of how to take care of a patient until more expertise arrives. “The first 90 minutes has a significant impact in the recovery of a patient,” she says. “Doing the right interventions at the right time is important.
“My job is very satisfying because it has the potential to enhance the total patient experience on both our campuses from admission until discharge, instead of one area such as ICU alone,” she continues. “It also gives me the opportunity and the scope to reengineer patient services to better meet patient needs.”
Dr. Sharma is also an integral member of the team leading a telehealth initiative for WMC’s expanding network. “Hopefully, this will result in a more patient-centered care that is both supportive and a less stressful hospital experience for both patients and their families.”