Member of the Month: Nish Shah, MD
Resident member chose family medicine long before medical school
Long before even entering the Baylor College of Medicine, Nish Shah, MD, knew family medicine was the path for him. Shah was born and raised in Houston by parents who firmly believed in academics and that hard work and discipline allow you to accomplish anything. Now in his second year at the Houston Methodist San Jacinto Family Medicine Residency program, Shah is very active in TAFP’s Section on Residents.
Why did you choose family medicine, and what’s your favorite aspect of it? Were you inspired by anyone?
During my early years in medical school the notion that family physicians are empowered with the responsibility of early medical intervention as well as primary prevention particularly struck a special chord within me. I became involved with the Texas Emergency Department Asthma Surveillance, a statewide initiative to educate parents about childhood asthma control and differentiate between mild asthma attacks and those that required ER intervention. I took great pride in enrolling new families into the program and carefully, yet respectively, explaining to them the different indicators for asthma attack severity. By the end of the study, my enrolled participants saw a 40 percent decline in ER visits, and parents reported feeling better suited at handling their child’s asthma in an outpatient setting. This experience underscored the profound responsibility that physicians have to manage all aspects of a patient’s care, both acute and chronic.
Upon completion of the TEDAS study, I eagerly anticipated my family medicine clerkship. Family medicine really intrigued me because it allowed me to combine all aspects of medicine that I came to enjoy – ranging from delivering babies in the operating room, comforting a teenager with severe depression, or helping my geriatric patients arrange their living will. During my rotation, I realized that family physicians must be adept at commanding the trust of their patients, serving as an understanding confidante for troubled adolescents, and acting as a firm disciplinarian when stubborn adults don’t adhere to their treatment plan. Family physicians must truly be jacks of all trades. I remember comforting a young lady with a positive urine pregnancy test nervous at the idea of divulging the news to her husband. I won’t forget holding the trembling hands of a husband whose elderly wife had meningeal signs on physical examination. The most striking feature of this medical field is that family physicians have the privilege of witnessing the growth and maturation of their patients from infancy into adulthood. One of my mentors, Dr. Daniel D’Souza, used to say, “No day is the same when you’re dealing with patients, but one thing is certain. Each day brings a new adventure.” His passion and outlook resonated with me, and I knew after my family medicine rotation that this specialty was truly my calling.
What is the best lesson you have learned in residency?
Always come to work with a smile on your face, humility in your heart, and an earnest desire to learn from those around you. If you do, you’ll be surprised by the number of amazing teachers surrounding you – faculty, co-residents, nurses, medical assistants, and technicians. Their experiences are invaluable to our education.
Also, always read about each of your patients. Reading isolated journal articles and textbooks are great ways to learn, but the best way of retaining the information is by applying the knowledge you’ve learned to each patient. Only then can you take the best care of your patients and codify the information.
What are your future goals when you go into practice?
I have a very strong interest in pursuing a fellowship in sports medicine after completion of residency and have been doing rotations and research to help me in this endeavor. Regardless of whether I pursue a fellowship or not, I do know that I have always envisioned myself in the outpatient setting caring for my patients. The one thing I’ve learned early on from my residency program is to stay open minded to the opportunities available to us. Learn the proper way to manage OB patients, perform minor surgical procedures, and handle those pain management patients. You never want to leave residency and not have options available to you simply because you did not expose yourself enough to those opportunities while you were in residency. Always keep an open mind and learn everything. If you do find that you like certain aspects of family medicine more than others, you at least have those options available. Also, I want to be involved in teaching in some capacity in my practice. I love teaching and sharing ideas, and I would love to have students or residents to help them cultivate their knowledge as my faculty continues to do for me.
What has your experience as a TAFP member been like?
My experience as a TAFP member thus far has been fantastic! Since starting residency, I’ve immersed myself with TAFP and loved every minute of it. Of course, having Dr. Kelly Gabler, the Harris County Academy of Family Physicians president, and Dr. Clare Hawkins, past TAFP president, at my residency program has enhanced my experience and exposure, and I’ve really appreciated their support in allowing me to attend TAFP conferences and meetings. I started out by attending the C. Frank Webber Lectureship in Austin, where I was elected to be vice chair of TAFP’s Section on Resident Physicians. I then led the section’s meeting at Annual Session this past July. Most recently, I was given the opportunity to represent the Texas residents as part of the Texas delegation to the AAFP Congress of Delegates in Washington D.C. It was such an amazing experience seeing the TAFP delegation in action, and I feel honored to have been able to go. I can’t wait to be more involved with TAFP moving forward in my career.
One piece of advice I would offer to my fellow residents is that there are ample opportunities for involvement as a resident with TAFP, you just have to express your interest.
How can we attract more medical students to family medicine?
It’s imperative that we continue to attract medical students to family medicine and primary care in general as the supply of family physicians has not kept up with the demand. I think if we can continue to show medical students that family medicine is an extremely stable and marketable vocation with family physicians as the one true profession best able to provide medical care for generations of families, we will attract the best and brightest medical students to our noble career. We need to show medical students that each day as family physicians is a new and exciting adventure – from the initial newborn visit to the geriatric patient, from the pre-participation sports physical to the OB continuity patient, and everything in between.
If you weren’t a doctor what would you be doing with your career?
I’ve always wanted to be a doctor from an early age, so it’s hard to imagine myself in any other profession. If I did have another career however, I might be a chemistry professor. I taught a chemistry class at Baylor as a supplemental instructor, and one of my proudest achievements was when I earned the Distinguished Instructor Award given for greatest increase in GPA for students enrolled in my section compared to other students in different sections of the same course. I love teaching, so this would probably be my second choice.
How do you spend your free time?
You value your free time more when it comes in limited supply. Currently my time is very limited with residency. When I do have free time though, I like spending it with my family, friends, and my fiancée. I’m fortunate in that I have an extensive support system in Houston that I get to spend time with whenever I have free moments. I’m a huge football fan, and most weekends when I’m not on call, you can find me cheering on my Baylor Bears and Houston Texans!
Tell us something fun about yourself.
During college, I played on Baylor’s pool team and traveled to tournaments around the Texas area. While I wouldn’t quite characterize myself as a “pool shark,” I enjoy using pool as an opportunity to reflect back on the day, decompress, and relax. Also, I’m getting married in December to my beautiful fiancée, Sujana!
TAFP’s Member of the Month program highlights Texas family physicians in TAFP News Now and on the TAFP website. We feature a biography and a Q&A with a different TAFP member each month and his or her unique approach to family medicine. If you know an outstanding family physician colleague who you think should be featured as a Member of the Month or if you’d like to tell your own story, nominate yourself or your colleague by contacting TAFP by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (512) 329-8666. View past Members of the Month here.