Turning Frustration into Action – Dr. Tatapudi is on a Mission to Bring Humanity to Medicine
January 26, 2024
A first-generation American, Suhas Tatapudi, DO, PGY-1, grew up always wanting to become a doctor. It was an idea that he really became passionate about once he began spending lots of time visiting his mother in the hospital.
In high school, Dr. Tatapudi, DO, PGY-1, felt frustration standing at his mother’s hospital bedside. A chronic illness kept her in and out of hospitals during his teen years and what he witnessed was a system that didn’t compassionately conform to the needs of patients. Unfamiliar jargon, disturbing noises, robotic-acting medical teams, and minimal communications began to form his perceptions of healthcare. A loving son witnessing his mother being treated impersonally - as simply a cog in an inefficient wheel - didn’t sit well with him.
He turned that frustration at “the system” into a quest to understand more about the ins and outs of healthcare. He began volunteering at the hospital to better understand medicine from “both sides.” It was a way for him to learn more while also being able to visit with his mother at the hospital between his volunteer duties.
“I became obsessed and fell in love with medicine. I saw the intricacies of how you handle and talk to patients and how to deal with certain pathologies and case presentations. I wanted to bring some more humanism back into medicine because it's easy to get caught up in the moment,” he says. “And so, every day in residency now, I try to stay honest, and I'm always humbled by how much I have to learn. I try to take it day- by-day and patient-by-patient.”
It was that desire to take a more holistic approach that drove his decision to pursue becoming a DO. “I think the DO pathway takes more of a humanistic side to medicine. DOs approach people in a bit of a different light. I found that a career in medicine involves both problem solving and deductive reasoning, but it ultimately warrants a passion about people and the ability to participate in their lives in a unique way, which aligns with my interests in critical thinking and empowering the community.”
Being a Doctor Means Being a Teacher
Early on, when one of his mentors mentioned that being a physician involved teaching, he said he didn’t initially understand that concept. But he says the more he works with patients, the more he understands the importance of explaining concepts in everyday terms.
Leaning toward a specialty in cardiology, Dr. Tatapudi has created ways to explain to his patients what is happening inside their bodies especially when they hear frightening phrases like “heart failure.” By making scary diagnoses simpler to understand he says patients become more engaged in their health, are less afraid to ask questions, and ultimately, they are more compliant in following instructions and taking prescribed medications.
Sometimes he said the pace of medicine can mean physicians can dread patients’ questions, but he views them differently. “When you have someone asking you questions, you're able to help answer and solve their problems a little bit better. It takes two to tango and you need your patient’s perspective as well. After all, that's what's important. You must listen to them, but they won't really speak up if they don't know what's going on.” He believes taking the extra time to explain to patients what certain medications can do to help them is worth the effort in giving the patient hope and ownership of their health.
#ACOI2023 was a Winning Trip
Dr. Tatapudi was a first-time attendee at ACOI 2023 last October in Tampa, Florida. His decision to enter the ACOI Resident Poster Contest and attend the Annual Convention turned out to be a winning one in many ways. Not only did he come in first place in the Case Presentations category, but he ended up winning many new friends, making multiple contacts, and developing an affinity for attending Conventions as he continues to make his way through residency.
“Previously I had only done conference in a virtual setting, so this was my first time going and seeing new people in a new setting on a national scale, and now I'm obsessed! I'm trying to go to as many conferences as I can during my first year of residency, and I'm hoping to come back again to the next ACOI Annual Convention. Everyone was so kind, so welcoming, so amazing. I cannot stress that enough!”
Throughout the Convention week, Dr. Tatapudi had the opportunity to meet both peers and established practicing physicians. He also met medical students who looked to him for advice on how to approach their residency search. He recalled that it was a good opportunity to share his experiences and a great way to give back, remembering how he too relied on others ahead of him when he was first applying for residency.
On the last day of ACOI 2023 he even became an impromptu member of a panel during the Saturday Student Sessions. “I offered to join in when I noticed the students weren’t speaking up and asking questions. Both Dr. Aran and Tim McNichol, ACOI Deputy Executive Director, who were running the session, agreed right then and there to put me up on stage to join the panel!”
He discussed his own experiences securing a formidable residency and encouraged students to make connections and make the most of the opportunities before them. He was so moved by attending his first in-person osteopathic internal medicine educational convention that he is eager to return for ACOI 2024 and in becoming even more involved in the ACOI as his career progresses.
“I would love to be more engaged with ACOI, for sure,” he said. His residency program at HCA Houston Healthcare-Kingwood helped to fund Dr. Tatapudi’s expenses to attend the Annual Convention, so upon returning to Texas, Dr. Tatapudi was encouraged by his Assistant Program Director, Rachel Hogan, DO, to share his experience. He consequently gave a presentation to his entire residency program of nearly 80 individuals and discussed what he learned at one of the gastroenterology sessions he attended at ACOI 2023. “We have a good number of DOs in our program, and a lot of us didn't really know about the ACOI before this and so I told everyone that I would love to go again next year if anyone wants to come and join me. Everyone got super excited at the prospect, so hopefully we will have a group of us attending!”
Balancing Work and Outside Interests: Dr. Tatapudi’s Tips to Find Your Passion and Get Involved
Realizing that residents and practicing physicians both are often too busy to focus on anything other than work, Dr. Tatapudi shared a few tips on what motivates him to step out and get involved.
- Decide on Your Priorities and Create a Plan: “Figure out what's your number one priority by creating a list of what is important to you. Realize there's a million ways and a million resources that you can utilize to help you find what's the best fit for you to accomplish your goals. When you decide what means the most to you, you will find the time necessary to make it work.”
- Connect with Your Driving Factors. “My personal motivation is that I want my last name to mean something. I have the unique privilege of being the first generation of my family here in the US, and I want my last name to matter. So, every single day when I wake up, I must do something meaningful. Whether it is doing right by a patient, or by my colleagues, or just being a good citizen of the Earth, it doesn't have to be a Nobel Prize worthy achievement.”
- Give Yourself Permission to Fail: “Be okay with trial and error. There are spikes and troughs all along the journey to success and you have to be okay with tripping up and sometimes failing along the way. Ultimately, as long as you know that what you're doing is right and you're doing what you enjoy, everything will turn out okay.”
- Surround Yourself with a Trusted Support System: “Find people who want what’s best for you and who have the mindset that they want to be better every single day. When I was studying for Boards, there were a million different resources that I could have utilized, but I asked five close friends and mentors which resources worked best for them. That was a timesaver. When you have people that are supporting you, there’s no turning back. You're totally fine.”
- Don’t become Paralyzed by the Details: “Sometimes we get scared of moving forward. We think it will either be too hard, or it will take too much time. Whether it's playing basketball, working out, being more efficient of your time, or being involved with a cause you believe in, making the effort is worth it. Just set aside the goal first and then rely on the people around you who may have tried and failed or tried and succeeded in that same journey.”
- Remember that Giving Back Will Energize You: “We spend the majority of our schooling as a cog in the system and trying to belong, but don’t be afraid to be a trailblazer! When it comes to giving back to the next generation, remember these are the people who want to follow in your footsteps. So many people have given back to me, my Program Director, my Associate Program Director, my cardiology mentors, my significant other, a lot of my closest friends, and my family. Everyone that has been in my life has been my springboard and helped me leap forward to where I am today.”
Dr. Tatapudi with his Program Director, Rajeev Raghavan, MD, M.Ed, FASN (left photo) and Associate Program Director, Rachel Hogan, DO (right photo).