Children's Emergency Department is now located in Children's Tower: 1001 E. Marshall Street.

10 questions with Dr. Shari Barkin: Meet CHoR’s new physician leader
August 01, 2022
CHoR physician in chief Dr. Shari Barkin with CHoR patient Emma

    Shari Barkin, MD, MSHS, an internationally recognized leader in academic pediatrics, joins us as physician-in-chief of CHoR and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at VCU School of Medicine.

    Learn more about who she is and the big vision she brings during this exciting time of growth.

    1. Why did you choose to become a pediatrician?

    I love all types of medicine. I originally thought I would be a neurosurgeon because I enjoy using my hands and I had a wonderful advisor who allowed me to observe as many surgeries as I wanted – but then something happened. I was taking call as a third-year medical student and a very sick 5-year-old came in with urosepsis. I evaluated the child and told the chief resident my plan, and he agreed. I was this child’s main physician throughout his stay. In between other patients I would visit him to monitor him closely and adjust the medical management plan.

    After five days of recovery in the hospital, I put in my discharge paperwork one night so he could be released to go home the following morning if all went according to plan. As I was finishing rounds that morning, I was surprised he was still there. He was sitting on his bed dressed in his Sunday best. He could have gone home several hours before, but he was waiting to see me. He said, “Doctor, thank you for saving my life!” and gave me a big hug. That’s when I knew pediatrics was for me. In many circumstances with children, you can completely turn around the outcomes to help them achieve their full potential. Nothing is better than that.

    1. Why is being in an academic medical center environment important to you?

    I believe in the power of learning and discovery, in putting science to work to improve children’s health and health care delivery. We’re only as good as we strive to be and there is always a pathway to better. I’m inspired by people who are curious and who want to: advance innovative care; implement care with the highest attention to quality, safety, equity and outcomes; advance scientific discovery; and educate the next generation of pediatric providers so they can take us to a place that is even better than where we are today. Academia is a unique environment that allows you to integrate all these missions, always bringing curiosity and learning to each day.

    1. What are you most proud of in your professional career thus far?

    There are many things for which I am grateful. I love forging new paths that set up others for success.

    For example, I launched the first interventional research trial in a large pediatric research network that reaches more than 3 million children. In the late 1990s, the Pediatric Research in Office Settings (PROS) Network had never done an interventional trial. Together we built the pathway to do so and now they’re known for interventional studies improving children’s lives.

    At Wake Forest, I developed a community-academic partnership working with the YWCA to put health at the center of their first planned community. We located the Collaborative to Strengthen Families and Neighborhoods inside the YMCA’s new 90,000 square foot building. This put health at the center of the community. I then took the same model to Vanderbilt and launched the Nashville Collaborative, forging a community-academic partnership that includes more than 10 community organizations. It is still going strong after 14 years. The more than 17 research studies resulted in some outcomes that were then scaled and spread to improve children’s health nationally.  

    I’m also proud to be part of the conversation for how we build health equity into the infrastructure for health care. I think we have opportunities to do this in ways we we’ve never done before. I recently completed an NIH study, the results of which have been taken up by Vanderbilt to help guide and inform next steps to advance health equity.

    Lastly, I am proud and honored to have mentored more than 100 mentees from diverse backgrounds. It is gratifying to lift people up to do their best and celebrate their accomplishments.

    1. What drew you to CHoR?

    The opportunity to launch a new children’s hospital with compassionate, high-integrity people. I think CHoR and VCU are at an important inflection point. When you combine all of VCU with CHoR, we have opportunities to be transformative in how we impact families and community.

    1. What is your vision for CHoR as our new physician leader?

    My vision is to lead the region in children’s health and health care and serve as a national model in health care transformation, innovation, education, discovery and clinical excellence, while mentoring the next generation. I hope to enrich all we do through the lens of equity, integrity and humanity.

    1. How would you describe your leadership style?

    I see myself as a conductor. That’s another reason I was drawn to CHoR. There are a lot of talented “musicians” playing all kinds of instruments here. I want to support them so they can all be virtuosos, playing in harmony from the same sheet music; the music of maximizing children’s health and effective, equitable health care (I realize this might sound corny, but it is certainly heartfelt).

    1. What motivates you?

    It’s simple – doing good work with good people to make a positive difference in the world.

    1. Are you a morning person or a night owl?

    Somewhere in between. I have a bimodal flow – I’m best mid-morning and early evening.

    1. Do you have any hobbies or talents, or maybe something you’ve discovered you’re not so great at?

    There are many things I enjoy – reading, volunteering, hiking, playing music, dancing, singing, learning new things – whether I’m good at them or not. A lot of my volunteering is around food security and reading to children in support of literacy and love of reading. I’m also really enjoying working with my daughter on writing a series of children’s books.

    Something I’m not great at is gardening. I so respect people who have green thumbs. I’ll help you weed your garden, but I’m better at growing people than growing plants.

    1. What are you most looking forward to doing as a new Richmonder?

    Kayaking on the James!

    We look forward to the huge impact Dr. Barkin’s leadership will have on the children in our community, research in pediatric care and future generations of pediatric providers.

    Watch CHoR patient Emma interview Dr. Barkin about her vision for CHoR and a whole lot more

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