Interview with Dr. Anna Shah

RMMSC: Dr. Shah, could you please tell us a little bit about yourself?

Anna Shah pic1Dr. Anna Shah: I was born and raised in Chicago and I went to college and medical school at the University of Missouri in Kansas City. I completed a six year accelerated bachelors and medical school program. It turned out to be the best decision I ever made, because I met my husband there. We lived across the hall from each other in the dorms. I did my neurology residency and chief resident year at the University of Michigan for my Neurology residency and was faculty member while my husband finished his residency. Then we both came here to the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus for our fellowships. We ended up loving it here and stayed.

RMMSC: During medical school, did you always know that you wanted to take the neurology path as a specialty or how did that come to pass?

Dr. Shah: For a minute there, I thought I wanted to be a surgeon. I didn’t have much experience or insight into neurology until I did my neurology rotation as a medical student. They always say you want to be just like the doctors that you admire the most or are the best mentors. I had wonderful neurology attending that I really admired and thought she was brilliant, so I certainly wanted to emulate that in the future. Just going through my neurology rotation as a medical student solidified my decision to pursue neurology; a neurologist really gets the opportunity to establish a longitudinal relationship with their patients and of course the pathology is incredibly interesting.

My decision to pursue multiple sclerosis / neuroimmunology was really based off of a few incredible patients I had. One of the patients that really influenced me was a patient with multiple sclerosis that I met during in-patient service. She has a very aggressive MS disease course and, due to a recent relapse, didn’t have much functionality with her hands. Her primary source of income was related to painting beautiful landscapes. She was incredibly innovative and learned how to hold the paintbrush and paint with her mouth, as a result of her relapse. Seeing that kind of perseverance and resiliency was just phenomenal, and it really inspired me.

RMMSC: What are your clinical and research interests?

Dr. Shah: One of my biggest clinical and research interests are in the preconception, pregnancy and breast-feeding periods of women and mothers with MS. I want to make sure that any of our MS patients that have dreams and goals -- including those to have a family -- are able to do what they want without letting the MS diagnosis get in the way. I don’t want women to have to worry about choosing between themselves and the disease. I think these are areas where we need to do more work in order to standardize our field’s approach.

My other interests include using data and technology to be able to serve our MS patients best. I think one of the things that is difficult and often frustrating for patients is that there is a lot of variability day- to-day that impact symptoms. I think it’s important that we figure out the best ways to utilize technology to make it possible for neurologists to better understand what our patients are experiencing on a daily basis so that we can help provide a better quality of life.

.RMMSC: What are the things you enjoy most about being a Neurologist?

Dr. Shah: I enjoy so many things about being a neurologist. One of the things I enjoy the most is being able to empower my patients. It’s really important to me that my patients know that can do almost anything that they want to do and not let a diagnosis of MS stand in their way. I also believe that I am very fortunate to get to be a part of patients’ lives to help them navigate diagnosis and treatment options and to have such an ability to make an impact. I feel very grateful and blessed that I am able to play an important role in shaping what their future looks like. I think that is a privilege that none of us ever take lightly.

RMMSC: What keeps you busy outside of your work as neurologist?

Dr. Shah: The things that keep me busiest out of work are my two little boys. We have a just newly turned 3 year old who has recently discovered that he can say “No” to doing things, so that makes life interesting. We also have an almost 1 year old son who is quickly following in his brother’s footsteps of getting into anything and everything that he shouldn’t get into. We love spending time outside and coming up with silly and fun things to do around the house. We recently discovered water balloon fights, which were quite an experience with our kids who like to throw water balloons, but don’t like to get wet.

RMMSC: What do you think is the most important message for anyone living with MS to hear?

Dr. Shah: It can be incredibly difficult to be diagnosed with MS or have a chance in your neurologic functioning with MS, particularly because it feels as though your goals or wishes in life have changed because of something you can’t control. I think it’s so important for everyone to recognize that sometimes you might just need to adjust your dreams slightly or even to create new dreams with MS, but there is no reason that you cannot absolutely thrive. MS does not define what you can or cannot do!