Raj Bhandari, MD is physician in chief (PIC) and chief of staff for The Permanente Medical Group (TPMG) at Kaiser Permanente in San Jose, California. In this role, Dr. Bhandari is a member of TPMG and Mid-Atlantic Permanente Medical Group Board of Directors, as well as chair of the Compensation and Benefits Committee. In 1997, he was the first Indian-Asian TPMG board member and in 2003, he became the first Indian-Asian PIC. Dr. Bhandari is a neurologist and has dedicated his entire career to serving TPMG at the San Jose Medical Center.
What leadership style do you take on?
I have a servant style leadership approach, which is both a leadership philosophy and set of leadership practices. I believe in putting the needs of those I lead first and helping people develop. By removing barriers for 450 physicians and 2,000 staff, I can enable them to perform at the highest level. I am constantly inspired by the people around me. The enthusiasm and willingness to do the right thing makes me humbled and honored every day to work with these bright people. They make me a better leader, doctor, and person – overall.
Who is a person that you consider as a role model? How and why does this person impact your life?
I have had many role models, but the one constant has been my mother. As a young boy, she instilled in me that if I didn’t have anything nice to say, I shouldn’t say anything at all. She is always looking for the best in people and thinking of ways to help others – her current project is knitting caps for cancer survivors. She is the most positive person I know and in return, inspires me to be the same.
Another role model was a neurologist during my training in Pennsylvania. He had the nicest bedside manner, and patients COMPLETELY trusted him! I learned a lot about how to relate to people observing him.
Last, but not least, Dr. Robbie Pearl has impressed me by being able to completely transform our model of care over the past decade and a half. He has articulated and implemented a clear strategy on how to deliver personalized care at a competitive price and has positioned KP in Northern California as a nationally recognized leader that the rest of the nation is trying to emulate.
What were some lessons you learned early on in your career?
In my career: It is OK to make mistakes as a leader. The key is to learn from them and not make the same ones again.
In medicine: Always listen to your patients. They are trying to help you help them.
In life: If you do not know, ask! Someone is always willing to help you.
How do you thrive?
I am a neurologist, so it’s all about functionality in the brain. Being in the moment is important. Never have regrets for what you are not doing. I try to pay full attention to the tasks at hand, and I am inspired by the energy around me. Also, I try to do everything in moderation and exercise regularly. After a long day, being at home with my family is what rejuvenates me.
Malt shakes… yum!