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June 26, 2023

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At the Heart of Healthcare: A Physician’s Story of Family and Connection at NMLC 2023

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At TeamHealth’s 2023 National Medical Leadership Conference, Dr. Mir Ali Sadat was named the Dr. Gar LaSalle Medical Director of the Year in Hospital Medicine. He shares more about his career, award and personal experience during the annual conference.

Dr. Sadat’s Career

Dr. Sadat began working with TeamHealth in 2018 when the hospitalist department at his facility had four physicians and a max daily census of about 30 patients. Working with the then-facility medical director, Dr. Sadat helped reorganize the team and recruit more providers to increase coverage and capacity for the hospital.

“He was quickly recognized as a stellar physician leader and appointed [facility medical director] in 2019,” says Dr. Robby Frantz, President, West Group.

In December 2021, the hospital and TeamHealth embarked on a more robust partnership, with the TeamHealth hospitalist team covering inpatient care with about 25 providers. Dr. Sadat was also integral in forming the internal medicine residency program at the facility, which now boasts more than 75 residents.

Medical Director of the Year

“I actually wasn’t going to attend,” says Dr. Sadat of the National Medical Leadership Conference (NMLC). He had clinical shifts scheduled during the conference, and he hadn’t planned to be there. When a colleague urged him to attend, he relented and realized he’d received an award.

“It was very rewarding and energizing,” he says. “I felt heard, and I felt respected.”

Dr. Sadat received the Dr. Gar LaSalle Medical Director of the Year award for the hospital medicine service line, along with four other award recipients from other service lines. The award is given to recipients nominated by TeamHealth group presidents and a panel led by Dr. Rob Strauss, Chief Medical Training Officer. The award recognizes exceptional leaders who prioritize servant leadership and administrative excellence.

“He is very well respected by the medical staff and is loved by his team… he truly cares about his team and embodies TeamHealth’s philosophy of the [facility medical director] being a beacon of culture for the rest of the team,” says Dr. Frantz.

Personal Connection to Wellness Keynote

During NMLC 2023, the wellness panel included a keynote address by Alex Pelbath, U.S. Air Force, Retired. Alex is a retired C-17 Special Operations pilot and current managing director at Victory Strategies, who presented on “Thriving in Chaos.” In 2021, Alex served as the air mission commander for the final evacuation of military and civilian personnel in Kabul, Afghanistan, and piloted the last aircraft off the ground.

Dr. Mir Ali Sadat was sitting towards the front of the crowd during Alex’s presentation. Looking up, he suddenly began recognizing the photographs and dates Alex mentioned.

“I text my family and said ‘Can you believe this’?” says Dr. Sadat.

His Family’s Journey

Dr. Sadat and his family moved from Afghanistan to Houston in 2012. But in 2021, his wife and children returned to Afghanistan for two family weddings that were to take place in August. On August 15, Dr. Sadat’s family was set to return to their home in Houston, their plane tickets bought and ready to use after the celebrations of the previous weeks.

“On the morning of August 15th, I told them to get to the airport now,” he recalls.

As their departure date approached, tensions heightened in Kabul, as the United States ended its 20-year military presence in Afghanistan. Dr. Sadat’s wife, children and brother walked four hours to Kabul’s international airport on August 15th, as transportation and city functions became chaotic. Arriving at the airport, his family reported a scary situation, as pilots and crew were not to be seen, and people were wandering around, on runways, through the airport. Since the airport was becoming exceedingly dangerous, Dr. Sadat instructed his family to return to a safe location and wait.

The evacuation process had begun, and eventually after arriving at the airport at 1 am after many days of making the dangerous trek back and forth to the airport, Dr. Sadat’s family boarded a C-17 military plane bound for Kuwait. On August 26th, a suicide bomber would carry out an attack at the airport that reportedly killed 13 U.S. service members and upwards of 170 civilians.

“They were right there,” says Dr. Sadat, who is grateful his family was able to depart when they did.

Persevering through Chaos

Dr. Sadat admittedly struggled during the time his family was making the treacherous journey to and from the airport and wading through the vetting process to return home.

“It was a 10-hour time difference, and I was working during this time,” he says. Feeling worn out and exhausted over the worry for his family, he said he had colleagues who helped him through. In particular, his residents who worked with him in the internal medicine residency program supported him.

More than anything, he is grateful his family returned home safely. The experience both Dr. Sadat and Alex had during those days in August 2021 were parallel tales of chaos. To meet in this way, as leaders across the country gathered to listen to a presentation on thriving through turbulence, seems fitting.

“I thanked Alex after the presentation,” he says. “I said, ‘My family might have been on your plane.’”

“People like Dr. Sadat remind us how much good can come from the challenging times in our lives,” says Pelbath. “I’m so honored to have met him, heard his family’s story of courage and to be reminded that people matter most.”

At the Heart of Healthcare

After pausing NMLC during COVID-19, TeamHealth was proud to bring leaders back together to learn, grow and connect. Stories like these are what propel our mission forward, because at the heart of TeamHealth are the human connections between our clinicians and the patients we serve. We are proud to have servant-leaders like Dr. Sadat caring for patients each day. And, we are proud to have partners like Alex Pelbath speak to wellness and thriving in difficult times, an experience particularly important for our healthcare heroes. Their shared story reminds us all that people are at the heart of what we do.

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