It’s 6:30 a.m. on a Friday and Dr. Sandip Godambe, an early riser, is where he usually is:
In his office, beginning his workday.
He’s an evening runner, unlike his wife, Libby, who laces up her shoes at dawn. He occasionally joins her on a morning run or circuit training session at the YMCA or Orange Theory.
The two met at a 10-km road race in St. Louis and spent part of their honeymoon running the inaugural San Diego Rock ’N’ Roll Marathon in 1998. He proposed at the Boston Marathon.
Now they’re a running family with three children – Maya, Samir, and Riya — who recently finished a half-marathon together.
Just as he has throughout his life as an avid runner, having completed around 45 marathons, Dr. Godambe is determined to set and smash goals as CHOC’s chief medical officer (CMO) and senior vice president of medical affairs.
Having been at CHOC since August 2021, the race is just starting to heat up.
“I was looking for a cool opportunity to grow a healthcare system,” says Dr. Godambe, “and CHOC is rocking and rolling with a great leadership team, fabulous group of physicians and associates, and a very supportive board and community. I think it’s an exciting place.”
As CHOC’s CMO, Dr. Godambe manages the enterprise’s physicians and clinical operations, a huge job requiring both clinical and leadership skills. A key responsibility is ensuring the highest possible quality of patient care.
His 24-page curriculum vitae details his A-list credentials as an experienced leader in improvement and safety sciences, as well as an esteemed practitioner of emergency medicine, including co-editorships of five clinical books, reviewer for multiple journals and editorial positions at two, Pediatric Quality & Safety and Pediatric Emergency Medicine Practice.
Not bad for a teenager who spent one summer in college sorting corn and peas at the Green Giant processing plant in Le Sueur, Minn. – a 90-minute bus ride from where he was living.
“It was hard labor – a pretty incredibly eye-opening, life-changing moment,” Dr. Godambe recalls. He worked as a parking ramp attendant throughout high school as well as a few restaurant stints.
While working in Le Sueur, the future physician leader was between his first and second years at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., where he was studying mathematics, engineering and romance languages. His parents, both computer scientists, and two sisters were living in Minnesota at the time.
He switched his major to biology and mathematics after an immunologist took him under his wing and taught him immunology and molecular biology basic science methods. He ended up staying in St. Louis and joining the MD-PhD (medical scientist) training program at Washington University School of Medicine.
“I wouldn’t have been able to predict it,” Dr. Godambe says of his career path.
Dr. Godambe became interested in pediatrics partly because of his experience as an undergraduate working with disadvantaged youth in downtown St. Louis through the Washington University Campus YMCA.
He went to Boston Children’s Hospital for his pediatrics residency, during which he worked as a public health physician on a Navajo reservation in Crownpoint, N.M.
Witnessing the struggles and challenges children and families were facing inspired him to become a pediatrician with a sub-specialization in emergency medicine.
Dr. Godambe met his future wife, a physical therapist, while attending Washington University School of Medicine. And two physician leaders who also recently joined CHOC – Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Terence Sanger and Chair of Center of Neonatal Research Dr. Terrie Ender – were fellows when Dr. Godambe was a resident at Boston Children’s Hospital.
“It’s a small world,” says Dr. Godambe, who prior to joining CHOC served as vice president, chief quality, safety and clinical integration officer at Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters Health System in Norfolk, Va.
He also has served in various capacities at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, both in Memphis, Tenn., as well as at Kosair/Norton Children’s Hospital in Louisville, Ky.
Since joining CHOC, Dr. Godambe has preached the value of improvement science – continuous process improvement to increase timeliness, efficiency, equity and effectiveness of care and deliver better outcomes.
“We want to co-design systems of care with our patients, families and communities,” he says.
The scope of his responsibilities also includes overseeing activities including quality, performance excellence, safety, regulatory affairs, and risk and accreditation.
“I’m trying to connect the dots across this healthcare system – we’re primed and ready to go with the great work we’re doing in population health, innovation, clinical care, and in other areas,” says Dr. Godambe, who has served as a senior examiner for the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program and an improvement advisor and fellow with the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.
“There are a lot of opportunities to set best practices and clinical pathways for the country at CHOC. We do some amazing and magical clinical work here,” he says.
A project he took on with Emma Sandhu, chief nursing officer at CHOC at Mission Hospital, and other CHOC leaders was the Joy in Work Initiative, a collaborative effort that includes 18 other healthcare systems around the world to address burnout and staff turnover in healthcare.
Dr. Godambe also is leading “CHOC Way,” a formal improvement science curriculum that is part of the “Reimagining CHOC” initiative, a strategy to group key initiatives such as the Enterprise Master Plan.
He also serves on the “One CHOC” committee led by Vice President of Population Health Dr. Michael Weiss. That panel focuses on collaboration, communication, and efficiency as CHOC strives to enhance quality, foster a culture that values joy in work, and remain fiscally responsible to all stakeholder groups.
In addition to Drs. Godambe and Weiss, members of the OneCHOC panel include Dr. Coleen Cunningham, Dr. Charlie Golden, Jason Culp, Kim Milstien, Dr. Jan Johnson, Dr. Robert Kaplan, Dr. Reshmi Basu, Dr. Leila Iravani, Dr. Gurpreet Ahuja, Dr. Vijay Dhar, Dr. Tony McCanta, Dr. Sameer Pathare, Emma Sandhu, and Robert McCann.
“Dr. Godambe’s support and presence in the OneCHOC meetings has been an instrumental component of the successes to date,” Dr. Weiss says. “His data-driven approach and attention to detail has provided the rigorous framework that is guiding our work.”
Pursuit of excellence
Dr. Godambe recently initiated a collaboration with Toyota Motor Company to introduce the Toyota Production System (TPS) to CHOC. TPS is an organizational culture of highly engaged people (e.g., the team members at CHOC) solving problems or innovating to drive winning performance for patients, families, caregivers and communities.
Underlying all of this is a desire to create a learning organization based upon the work of Peter Senge and others. The process of becoming a learning organization, Dr. Godambe explains, aligns well with “high-reliability organization” (HRO) principles – preoccupation with failure, sensitivity to operations, reluctance to simplify, commitment to resilience, and deference to expertise. The airline industry, U.S. Navy aircraft carriers and certain companies such as Alcoa and Toyota are considered premier examples of HROs.
“We’re doing a lot of work at the forefront of this,” Dr. Godambe says.
He also is co-principal investigator at CHOC on a grant to prevent youth suicide that is part of the national Zero Suicide Collaborative.
Dr. Godambe, a professor of pediatrics at CHOC’s academic university partner, UC Irvine, is co-executive leader of CHOC’s four centers of excellence — CHOC Neuroscience, Heart, Orthopaedics, and Hyundai Cancer Institutes – and is hoping to create a Mental Health institute as well.
Staying in the race
Outside of running together, the Godambe family is musical. All play the violin, although Dr. Godambe says he hasn’t had much time to practice.
“Our children are the joys of our life and never cease to amaze us with their talents and warm personalities,” Dr. Godambe says.
His oldest daughter, Maya, is working on a master’s degree in public health and hopes to go to medical school.
Middle child Samir says he may be interested in becoming a lawyer.
Riya, the youngest, is mulling veterinary or medical school.
Dr. Godambe still pounds the pavement, preferring half-marathons to preserve his knees.
And for now, he’s focused on getting CHOC to the finish line of becoming one of the nation’s leading pediatric healthcare systems.