From the Society

Nontraditional med student hopes to bridge common understanding gaps in health care

SHM annual meeting inspires Ryan Gamlin with forward-looking programming


Editor’s note: Each month, SHM puts the spotlight on some of our most active members who are making substantial contributions to hospital medicine. Log on to for more information on how you can lend your expertise to help SHM improve the care of hospitalized patients.

This month, The Hospitalist spotlights Ryan Gamlin, a nontraditional student at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. Ryan was chosen to present his scientific abstract at SHM’s annual meeting in 2016, and encourages medical students to utilize SHM’s resources.

Tell TH about your unique pathway to medical school. How did you become an SHM member?

After 10 years working for and consulting to large health insurance companies, I was increasingly disillusioned with my work and the insurance industry and began feeling restless. When I considered possible avenues to help improve health and the health care delivery system, nothing held more intellectual or professional appeal than working on problems from the inside as a physician.

Ryan Gamlin

Ryan Gamlin

Many issues in our health care delivery and financing systems stem from lack of common understanding; physicians rarely speak the same language as administrators, who in turn do not speak the language of policy makers, etc. It’s my goal to serve as something of an ideas translator for these disparate groups within U.S. health care – physicians, administrators, and policy makers – helping them to make real progress, together, on the biggest challenges facing our health care system.

This effort to bridge these constituencies was my introduction to SHM. I was fortunate enough to be selected for the Health Innovations Scholars Program (HISP), an incredible quality improvement (QI) and leadership development program run by the hospital medicine group at University of Colorado. Conceived by Jeff Glasheen, MD, and now led by Read Pierce, MD, and Emily Gottenborg, MD, among many others, HISP brings eight medical students together to grow their QI toolkit and build leadership skills while providing the opportunity to design and run a meaningful QI project at the University of Colorado’s Anschutz medical campus. Many involved with this program – and others within the hospital medicine group at the University of Colorado – are leaders within SHM. With their encouragement, I submitted an abstract based on our HISP project and had the good fortune to share our work as a podium presentation at Hospital Medicine 2016 in San Diego.

Describe your experience at your first annual meeting. Why would you encourage medical students to attend?

Hospital Medicine 2016 inspired me. As someone interested in the intersection of clinical care and the care system itself, I was amazed at the depth and breadth of forward-looking programming and the amount of similarly-inclined people!

I wish that every medical student – irrespective of their intended specialty – could attend an SHM meeting to witness firsthand how a progressive, thriving professional society integrates members at all levels (student, resident, early-career faculty, and beyond) into their work of improving health care.

As a medical student, why is SHM beneficial to your professional growth as a future physician?

I see SHM as a “big tent” professional society that values insights and expertise from all types of physicians, with tangible commitments to support them in the types of system-improving work that are important to me in my career. SHM’s member resources and commitment to students’ and residents’ professional development are incomparable.

What are the biggest opportunities you see for yourself and other future physicians in the changing health care landscape?

The days when a physician’s job was limited to doctoring are over. Our generation of physicians must be great clinicians and work to heal a sick health care system. Now more than ever, physicians must be systems thinkers, designers, and fixers, equipped with the tools of quality improvement, design thinking, finance, and health policy.

Opportunities for meaningful improvement exist at every level, from care teams to health systems, the health care industry, and policy at every level. I would encourage those at any stage of their careers to find an area that they’re excited about or interested in. Seek out information and mentors in that area at their institutions or within SHM, and just start working on something.

There is a tremendous amount of uncertainty in health care; reimbursement paradigms are changing, clinical expectations only grow, and the forces competing for every doctor’s limited time seem unlimited. Uncertainty is uncomfortable, but it also means opportunity. I’m excited to see the commitment to leadership from SHM and so many of its members. It has never been more necessary.

Felicia Steele is SHM’s communications coordinator.

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