A Look at a Leader: Wanita Kumar, MD

September 11, 2017

Some people flee from change, others embrace it. Wanita Kumar, MD at Indiana University Health says she’s always fallen into the latter category. Surrounded by physician role models as a child (her aunts, uncles and even grandfather were doctors), Dr. Kumar says she was always exposed to medicine. “It felt like a natural fit.”

Born in India, the current Medical Director of IU Health’s System Financial Services, says her family immigrated to the United States when she was in fifth grade. “It was a very different culture than what I was used to but I embraced the change and soon Massachusetts felt like home,” she says. As the years passed, Dr. Kumar carved out her own path. The doctor ultimately attended Brandeis University as an undergraduate and University of Massachusetts for medical school.

Diploma in hand, Dr. Kumar says she also graduated during a time of change. “It was the advent of the hospitalist. Prior to that time, most physicians were in-patient and out-patient focused.”

Hospitalists are trained general medicine physicians that take care of patients when they are in the hospital only. “They focus on the patient’s care from admittance to discharge,” she says, “which is different from other doctors who only take care of patients in outpatient settings.”

Dr. Kumar worked as a hospitalist in Massachusetts for several years. During that time, she says she made many decisions predicated on the availability of electronic medical records. “Back then, you’d have medical record systems within all of the various sectors of the hospital--so records for units like intensive care, oncology, etc. and you’d also have your own individual logins for each of them to obtain patient information. None of them interconnected,” she recalls. “Even though once you were in you could learn information, you could never see a patient’s full picture of health with one log in. Thankfully, things have come a long way.”

How did Dr. Kumar ultimately come to call Indiana home? “My husband, who is a pediatrician, had to complete a dermatology residency and that brought us to Indiana.”

The decision paid off, she says. “We ultimately found this area to be a fantastic place to raise a family and for our individual career paths and interests,” she says.

An unexpected perk: “While my husband was doing his residency, I also fell into a great career path.”

The path was a role regarding medical records. “University Hospital’s Chief Information Officer at the time felt that he needed more support in the information systems division,” recalls Dr. Kumar. The hospital needed clinicians to be the conduits and translators in that arena and so I was brought on board. And that was how I got into clinical informatics.”

Years later, she says, in 2013 clinical informatics became an official board specialty. “When it became available, I achieved additional certification in that area,” she says. “And after 10 years of doing that, I now work in the system financial services sector. I’ve worked at IU Health for over 12 years and wouldn’t change a thing.”

-- By Sarah Burns

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