Physician Spotlight

Mahkija photo

Meet Sharmila Makhija MD, Donald E. Baxter endowed chair, chairman, Department
of Obstetrics, gynecology and women’s health professor, gynecologic oncology

Place of Employment:
University of Louisville School of Medicine

Why did you decide to become a doctor?

When I was nine years old and visiting my grandparents in India for the summer, I followed my grandfather, a generalist,
as he cared for his patients.  I would listen to the fetal heartbeats of pregnant women and hold their hands while he
talked with them. I knew then that I wanted to be a physician, for I experienced the caring and healing nature of my grandfather’s bedside manner, and I wanted to be like him.

Is it different than what you thought? If so, how?
Practicing medicine is not different from what I expected; the “business of medicine” that we weren’t taught in medical
school is not what I expected. at is why I chose to pursue an MBA degree in order to integrate the two disciplines.
With increasing federal regulation, I think that we as medical educators must provide additional education for our students, programs that include the medical curriculum plus the training to acquire the business acumen to ensure a smooth transition into the practice of medicine.

What is the biggest misconception about your field?

Patients often think that physicians have all the answers. We make decisions that constantly weigh the benefi t and risks of treatment plans for each patient; the patient’s prognosis is always fi rst and foremost in the physician’s mind. We base
decisions on evidence based medicine, which gives us options for care. We constantly strive for the best solutions that
meet our patients’ needs.

What is the one thing you wish patients knew and/or understood about doctors?

Doctors really care about their patients. We view each individually with a condition that is uniquely their own. We are
masters at multitasking: caring for the patient, communicating with the family, handling insurance companies and billing
issues or changes in reimbursements. We really want what is best for the patient, and we assume many roles; we manage our patients and our practices, for each are dependent on the other.

What is your opinion of Managed Care and how will this affect you?

There have been many definitions of “Managed Care” in recent years. The Affordable Care Act will surely aff ect our
current and future practices. I would like to think that these changes will make physicians more aware of patient safety
and outcomes.

What’s one thing your colleagues would be surprised to learn about you?

I was a ranked competitive tennis player throughout high school.

What’s the best advice you ever received? Who gave it to you?

A physician I admired told me always to be fair and honest. No matter how hard it is to give truthful feedback, it is essential in helping advance better treatments for patients, in encouraging faculty members to perform better, and in creating relationships that foster communication to accomplish goals.

What are you reading?

Team of Rivals (Simon & Schuster, 2006) by historian Doris Kearns Goodwin: the book ingeniously discusses how Abraham Lincoln met leadership challenges through his astute understanding of human behavior, motivation and egos.