Suparna Dutta, MD, MPH

Assistant Professor    
Department of Internal Medicine, Rush Medical College
Role: Administrator, Division Chief (Hospital Medicine) and Faculty
Joined Rush in 2013


I am currently an Assistant Professor of Medicine and Division Chief of the Division of Hospital Medicine at Rush University Medical College. I earned my bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College in political science and biology. Prior to entering medical school, I worked on Capitol Hill for the Senate HELLP Committee under Senator Edward Kennedy as a health policy legislative assistant. After my time in DC, I went on to complete my medical degree at the University of Buffalo and my master’s degree in Public Health (concentration in health policy) at Yale University. I trained at Yale University/Griffin Hospital in New Haven, CT in both internal and preventive medicine. I have worked as an academic hospitalist for the past ten years, serving on the faculty at Boston University, the University of Miami, and Rush. My work improving communication skills in the inpatient setting has received national recognition. In addition to inpatient care, I am very active in the medical college. I am Director of the Rush University Medical College Leader Curriculum and the required, fourth year, ‘Clinical Bridges’ course. I am also active in hospital operations, and I co-chair the Rush Readmissions Work Group. I have published and spoken extensively both locally and nationally regarding the Affordable Care Act and national health care policy, perioperative medicine, and the HCAHPS survey/effective patient-physician communication. I was named one of the ACP’s Top Hospitalists of 2015 and was selected to serve as a member of the Society of Hospital Medicine’s Public Policy Committee. Throughout my career, I have won numerous awards, including recognition for excellence in medical student/resident teaching and leadership, and I was recently named a fellow by the American College of Physicians.

What inspired you to get into your field?

The seeds of my inspiration were planted at a young age. My grandmother, an OB/GYN and one of the first female physicians in Kolkata, India, provided care for all who needed it, regardless of their social or economic status. A pioneer of preventive medicine, she put together a team of nurses, social workers, students, and physicians who spent countless hours educating poor communities about the then taboo topic of birth control and ensuring access to good nutrition during pregnancy. My grandmother taught me my first lessons in medicine: health care is a team sport, prevention is the key to health, and good health care should be available to all. My grandmother’s lessons have resonated with me over the years, and I have tried to follow in her footsteps. Returning to India after many years abroad, I was granted a fellowship to work with Mother Teresa and was assigned to Kalighat, the Home for Death and Dying. Many of the patients were young, poor, and dying from AIDS, which was rampant in India at the time. With limited resources, our group of volunteers, including physicians and nurses from all around the world, put together a community outreach program to educate at-risk populations and facilitate access to early medical care for those who were already infected. Out of a heartbreaking situation came help for others through team based prevention, education, and access. I then returned to the United States and realized that many of the same inequities I experienced in India were also present here. Over the ensuing years of employment, I set off on a journey to explore different methods from which to improve our health care system. While working in Washington for Senator Edward M. Kennedy and Congressman John J. LaFalce, at the National Association of People with AIDS, as well as at the American College of Preventive Medicine, I had the opportunity to work with lawyers, physicians, lobbyists, researchers, and members of Congress on macro-level health care issues that are dear to my heart. We advocated for bills which would provide every American with high quality, safe healthcare coverage and crafted legislation that strengthened our health care safety net, including funding for preventive services. We also demanded that healthcare be considered a right and not a privilege. My work experience has shown me how inequities in the healthcare system can be addressed through substantive, strong public policy crafted by a multi-profession team that is passionate about these issues and whose members have experience working in the system. While working in Washington, I also realized that healthcare providers have a special role to play in society. They are trusted by patients and respected by policy makers. This allows them to be strong and effective advocates/leaders for change. This played a role in my decision to attend medical school, complete a residency in internal and preventive medicine, and specialize as a physician in academic hospital medicine. I understood that this was a field where I could work on the main themes of my career: 1) access to safe, high quality care, 2) prevention of disease, and 3) team collaboration and process improvement.

What excited you about your work at Rush?

I was excited by the ability to work, teach, and improve care delivery in an environment that is incredibly supportive of collaboration and innovation.

What is your opinion of mentoring and sponsorship? Please comment about your experiences.

Both mentorship and sponsorship have been crucial for helping me get to where I am today, and I strive to provide the same opportunities for others. My previous division chief, Dr Amir Jaffer, served as both my mentor and sponsor. He opened up opportunities for me in academic hospital medicine, including bringing me to Rush when he moved here from the University of Miami. I worked hard to be worthy of the trust he showed in me. I have found the most productive mentorship/sponsorship relationships are when both parties are invested and work hard to help each other. My experience as a mentor has been to serve as the following: Rush Medical College faculty advisor to the Class of 2018 (for their 3rd/4th years of medical school), faculty advisor to the Class of 2022 (1st year students), Division Chief for Hospital Medicine, which includes meeting with each faculty member (we have over 60) for biannual reviews and ensuring that each faculty member has adequate mentorship to help him/her achieve his/her goals.

Do you have tips or advice you would recommend for someone looking to enter your field of work?

Yes. Regarding academics, I would want new faculty to know, that whatever your interests are, don’t expect to have time buyouts or stipends given to you when you first begin working. Those will come with time, but first, you have to demonstrate your interest in your topic- and work on it without any support. The more you find a niche that interests you and is unique to you, the easier it will be to succeed academically. The more specific you can be when defining your niche, the better. “Education” is fairly vague, but ‘teaching fourth year medical students about quality and safety improvement methodology’ is much better. As hospitalists, we are uniquely situated to improve how our institution functions. While it can be frustrating that the pace of change can sometimes be glacial, the more innovative, thoughtful, (and resource conscious) you are, the higher your odds of being able to create sustainable change.

What are your hobbies? How do you like to spend your free time?

I just had a baby! My son, Bodhi, is three months old, so I currently spend most of my free time with him. But, BB (before baby), I enjoyed running (I have run the Chicago Marathon twice.), avidly following politics, exploring restaurants around the city, and rescuing dogs (I also have two pups whom I adore - Lobo and Izzie).