Last Updated: Mar 20, 2020
Saurabh Sharma, MD is a preventive cardiologist and a clinical lipidologist with Guthrie, a health system based in Sayre, Pa. He also serves as a core faculty member of Guthrie’s cardiovascular fellowship program. Dr. Sharma is the Pennsylvania Medical Society’s (PAMED) Everyday Hero Award recipient for March 2020.
“Trust is always earned, never given,” says cardiologist Saurabh Sharma. That is why he makes sure he always greets his patients with a smile, listens carefully to what they have to say, and acknowledges their fears and concerns.
“Sometimes as physicians, we forget what it is like to be on the other side - to be on the receiving end,” he says. When his own father became ill and needed a heart valve replacement, Dr. Sharma gained a greater understanding of how important it is to empathize with the concerns of patients and family members.
His experience helping his father through his procedure also inspired him to become a cardiologist. At that time, he had already graduated from medical school at Manipal University. He was working as a physician at a local community hospital in India but hadn’t yet settled on a specialty.
A native of Agra, located in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, Dr. Sharma wanted to be a physician from an early age. He says his parents helped show him a clear path from the outset and helped him to achieve his goal.
In 2009, Dr. Sharma and his wife Deepali moved to the United States so that he could begin his cardiology training. “Her immense love for me and her sacrifices helped me reach where I am today,” he says of his wife. They supported one another through her battle with cancer – which she fought and won.
He completed residency training at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. and then completed fellowship training first at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. and then at Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia.
In August 2017, Dr. Sharma joined the staff of Guthrie as a preventive cardiologist and a clinical lipidologist. “It’s been almost two and a half years since I have been practicing here and I simply love it!” he says. He admires the camaraderie and respect between Guthrie employees.
Practicing in a rural area is a fulfilling experience for Dr. Sharma. He likes being able to develop strong personal connections with his patients. “I have had patients who send me a thank you card, and reading those small notes of appreciation is the most satisfying feeling in the whole world,” he says.
Building a rapport with patients is a priority for Dr. Sharma. He uses techniques such as motivational interviewing in order to get a better understanding of the challenges his patients are facing.
Motivational interviewing involves connecting with patients in a non-judgmental way to understand their history and experiences. Helping patients reflect on the reasons why they engage in behavior that could be harmful for their cardiac health allows him to connect with patients on a deeper level and work with them to find solutions.
“I take immense pleasure in talking to my patients about various approaches they can take to prevent cardiovascular diseases like heart attacks and strokes – including by controlling risk factors like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, and tobacco use,” he says.
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He typically sees patients during office hours three days each week. On other days, he reads tests and performs procedures such as transesophageal echocardiograms and cardioversions.
He also makes a point of keeping up with the latest research. In his field, new research trial results are released frequently, and new technologies are invented each year. At Guthrie, Dr. Sharma is currently the principal investigator for three clinical trials.
Dr. Sharma is also a core faculty member of Guthrie’s cardiovascular fellowship program. He precepts fellows during his office hours.
“Teaching has always been my passion,” he says. The fact that Guthrie is a teaching hospital is one of the things that drew him there. “I’m responsible for making good cardiologists,” Dr. Sharma notes with pride.
His advice to trainees just embarking on a career in medicine is to remember that while the journey may be filled with hard work and sacrifices, it will be rewarding. “Most importantly,” he says, “We must remember to be good human beings first to be good doctors.”
“The feeling that I was able to help my patients somehow and they feel better now, that their pain is gone and their quality of life has now improved are some of the things that make me feel proud of my profession and makes me ready with a lot of energy for the next day,” says Dr. Sharma.
Ultimately, being able to come home to his wife and his nine-year-old daughter Niyati, who greets him with a hug every evening, makes it all worthwhile.