Joe Sharma, MD, associate professor of general and endocrine surgery, has been appointed chief quality officer of the Emory Department of Surgery, taking over from department chair John Sweeney, MD, who had served in the position since 2008.
"Dr. Sharma is more than up to the task," says Sweeney. "He's grown his practice significantly and matured as a surgeon since arriving here in 2007, and he's made considerable impact moving quality initiatives forward in Emory Surgery."
In 2011, higher than average surgical site infection rates were reported for Emory University Hospital (EUH) in benchmarking documents from the National Surgical Quality Improvement Program (NSQIP) of the American College of Surgeons. Sharma's response was to form the Wound Infection Group (WIG), which evaluated problem areas and initiated new protocols. By 2012, the hospital's NSQIP results had improved significantly.
As Emory Surgery's rep on the EUH Operating Room Committee, Sharma has managed several projects that have worked toward improving quality outcomes after procedures, such as the colorectal surgery checklist that is now a fixture in EUH ORs. He has also been involved in launching process improvement projects throughout Emory Surgery using data from his WIG achievements combined with information he and Sweeney gleaned from analyzing NSQIP reports.
Additionally, Sharma sits on national NSQIP committees, and serves as medical officer of the Division of Healthcare Quality and Promotion of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases.
Sharma's activities as Emory Surgery's chief quality officer will include leading the monthly departmental quality meeting in partnership with research informatics analyst Sebastian Perez and associate professor of surgery Sharon Muret-Wagstaff, PhD, MPA; working with Sweeney to further develop quality strategies that align with Emory Healthcare initiatives and those of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services; advancing each division's annual quality improvement projects; advising Sweeney and Emory Healthcare's chief quality officer on new areas of focus and trending surgical quality concerns that Emory should assimilate, with particular attention given to acquiring access to new quality databases and fine tuning the use of existing ones; and assisting Sweeney in serving as the surgical quality representative for organizational committees addressing changes in Medicare physician payment policy and associated issues.