Servant and Farmer

Leader Spotlight: Anoop Raman, MD, MBA, Chief Medical Officer, Complex Care

Just before his senior year of high school, Anoop Raman was home with his grandmother when she had a heart attack and died. Her heart disease, likely a complication of diabetes, was the motivation for his career choice. “I became a physician,” he said, “to help treat people with chronic conditions, especially diabetes, which has terrible potential complications—amputations, heart attacks, stroke—that are entirely treatable with the right diet, medications, and exercise.” He could not only help prevent these complications, but he could also spare other children from that kind of trauma.

Dr. Raman knew upon entering medical school that primary care would be his area of focus, and family medicine would eventually become his subspecialty—not only for those personal reasons but for philosophical and practical ones as well. Family medicine offers an opportunity to build trust and create a robust circle of care for patients and the closest people in their lives.

His work at AbsoluteCare allows Dr. Raman to follow that path with the most vulnerable members of society. “I’m practicing at the top of my license, serving people who have had strained experiences with our traditional health system.” It also keeps him current with best practices and abreast of new therapies, forever learning.

Here, however, he is more than a practitioner; he’s a clinician leader. As a practitioner, he sees AbsoluteCare’s members as individuals. As CMO, he sees them as a population. Every day, he asks how we can bring “five-star service—transportation, ample time with doctors, care managers advocating for and navigating housing and food resources—to the people who need it most.” Dr. Raman is here because this is where he can do it. “We fund all these resources by simply delivering great clinical outcomes—healthier members who are at home instead of unnecessarily in the hospital.”

Dr. Raman is a servant leader; that is, he nurtures his teams and helps them thrive. His leadership serves them. Rather than focusing on getting messages from the top to the bottom, he thinks about getting them from the back to the front—the front line, where the care takes place. Though he finds himself at home in both the boardroom and exam room, the latter grounds him. “It’s important to keep the voices of our members and teammates as our north stars as we navigate difficult decisions that growing organizations face.”

Some of Dr. Raman’s most important leadership lessons came from his first job as a stock-keeping operations supervisor in a warehouse, where the team would take 10,000 items off a conveyor belt and put them on the right shelf for efficient fulfillment the next day. He was young, though, and worried that his youth might put off some of the older, more experienced workers. But what he realized about leadership is that most people are not concerned with trivialities. “They care about three things: Are you competent? Do you care about me? Can I trust you? If you can demonstrate competence, caring, and follow-through, you are well on your way to being a great leader—whether it’s in a warehouse or a medical clinic. I have always remembered that.”

Dr. Raman gets his inspiration from one of the world’s greatest leaders and health equity advocates, Dr. Paul Farmer. Farmer, who was Dr. Raman’s mentor and friend, said, “The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that is wrong with the world.” “He embodied what we do here at AbsoluteCare,” said Dr. Raman. And when people in this kind of healthcare setting become disillusioned or burned out, he remembers that what keeps him here is the same thing that kept Dr. Farmer going: “Doing hard things with friends.”

Ideally, health insurance should be available to all, but in Dr. Raman’s perfect world, healthcare would make a bigger investment in primary care, as doctor/patient time is invaluable—and cut way too short by our current medical system, leaving more patients stuck in the expensive purgatory of emergency rooms.

When he’s not working, he enjoys reading and playing basketball. “On the best days, seeing members feels like a true team sport at AbsoluteCare.”

He lives with his wife—an elementary school principal in north Philadelphia and a servant leader in her own right—and their three children, aged two, four, and six. He feels especially blessed that his children are growing up with all four of their grandparents nearby, each of them healthy and with well-controlled diabetes.

Dr. Raman is the author of “The Need for Need-Based Care: How to Achieve Equity in Healthcare.”