Diverse Voices in Quality: Sujith Ramachandran

Diverse Voices in Quality is a PQA blog series that showcases the successful career paths and experiences of medication use quality professionals from diverse groups at PQA member organizations. A part of PQA’s Diverse Quality Leaders Program, this series celebrates the achievements of our members who reflect our nation’s diversity and provides everyone with insights and inspiration for becoming a leader in quality.

The PQA Quality Shadowing Program is part of the PQA Diverse Quality Leaders Program, which provides opportunities for individuals at various career stages to become leaders in quality. Self-nominations for the 2024 program will be accepted through Friday, December 8, via a form on the PQA website.

The third blog in this Q&A series features Sujith Ramachandran, PhD, Associate Professor of Pharmacy Administration and Assistant Director of the Center for Pharmaceutical Marketing and Management at the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy. He has been involved in PQA’s performance measurement and research work for many years. He serves on PQA’s Health Equity Technical Expert Panel and is a member of the 2023 PQA Quality Metrics Expert Panel.

Tell us about your background and how you became involved in medication use quality.

I have a background in pharmacy. After my bachelor's in pharmacy, I decided to pursue a doctorate in health outcomes research. During the course of that program, my mentor and advisor, Dr. Ben Banahan, introduced me to research involving medication use quality. My work with insurance claims data, specifically within Medicaid, allowed me to understand the importance of measuring and incentivizing medication use quality. We would conduct several projects in the Medicaid data every year focused on how medications were used, patterns of prescribing and what outcomes and costs were associated with that use.

This allowed me to grasp concepts and challenges in measuring quality and even recognize issues related to disparities in healthcare use and outcomes. Even more importantly, when I was a graduate student, I would assist Dr. Banahan's role on PQA measure development committees by testing and evaluating quality measures being developed by PQA. That experience led me to dive deeper into quality measures, and eventually, I was able to get involved with PQA and medication use quality myself.

What opportunities through PQA have helped you grow professionally or strengthen your approach to quality? 

I have found my experience with PQA to be tremendously rewarding. One of my early experiences, serving as a co-chair for a measure development technical expert panel, really helped me understand what it takes to develop and endorse a quality measure. I could gauge what role each stakeholder brings to the table and recognize the value of building evidence in a manner that is a multidisciplinary partnership.

I have since served in other roles at PQA and attended the annual conference to develop collaborations with individuals both inside and outside of PQA. These opportunities were instrumental in developing many of my career's successful collaborations.

What drives you to be successful?

This might sound like a cheesy answer, but I really enjoy what I do for a living. I do not know that I can define success just yet, but as long as I enjoy what I do, and make a positive difference in the world around me, I am not worried about seeking success.

What advice do you have for individuals who want to be involved in quality measurement and quality improvement?

The advice I share with my students is to talk to people – reach out, connect, ask questions, ask for advice and learn from those around you. For the introverts amongst us, it may be our biggest challenge, but it is well worth the effort! The most rewarding moments in my own career have come from emailing or approaching folks and simply asking for help. After all, help only comes to those who ask for it.

Who have been your role models and mentors professionally?

I have had too many mentors to list them all, but any list I make would be incomplete without the two mentors that advised my master’s and PhD projects, Dr. Ben Banahan and Dr. John Bentley, respectively. I owe them a huge debt of gratitude for shaping me into who I am today.

Recognizing that our nation’s health care leadership has not reflected our nation’s diversity, where should today’s early career professionals turn for advice, support and inspiration?

I believe we are starting to see a shift in representation in leadership across various fields in the country. The process takes a long time, but I hope that my optimism is not misplaced. Meanwhile, we have to turn to each other to help learn from and grow with each other. Career growth is not a zero-sum game. We need to recognize that working together can help everyone on the team.

So, if you are trying to learn about or work in an area that someone else is also working on, don't compete with them. Join teams, instead!

If you are not sure where to find similar-minded individuals, remember to lean into your networks on social media. We are more digitally connected today than ever before, and if you put your voice out there, you will find folks to connect with. This is advice I very much live by, as well. For folks who want to reach out to me for anything at all, my door is always open. I will always reply and engage with an earnest email, LinkedIn message, phone call or connect on other platforms.

How can the health care industry better support individuals from diverse backgrounds in their careers?

There's a lot of things that the industry can do better. We need more inclusive work environments, mentorship and career development opportunities focused on minorities. We also need to provide better accommodations in conference settings. For example, we could make sure there is always room at conferences for nursing mothers, religious worship and food options that accommodate diverse preferences, for example.

To increase diversity, we also need to focus on the next generation. We need to provide these expanded opportunities to college or high school students to help nurture talent and mentor them for future success in whatever field they choose.

Even more than changes in structured programs or formal settings, real change comes from the everyday interactions and informal connections we make with people. If we can all be more thoughtful, kind and inclusive, that will help support our colleagues from all backgrounds more than anything else.

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