HOW MY PARENTS IMPACTED MY CAREER
Hi! My name is Dr. Anuj R. Shah and my goal is to treat patients and provide the best cardiovascular care possible. I grew up in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India. Both of my parents were pediatricians and my role models. My Dad (Dr. Raju C. Shah) is a very successful academic. He was the past President of the Indian Academy of Pediatrics, an organization of 2,800 plus pediatricians, and he has authored multiple papers, abstracts, and book chapters. I was always inspired by my parent’s desire to help others. Growing up, I spent weekends rounding at the hospital with my Dad instead of typical childhood activities. The word "no" didn't exist in his vocabulary, so no matter who needed his help, whether it was a really poor farmer from a remote village whose child was dying or an ambitious junior attending who was looking for a mentor - my Dad was always there to help them.
PERSONAL IMPACT OF HEART DISEASE
My own personal tragedies with heart disease have had a tremendous impact on my career. My uncle passed away suddenly at the age of 55 from a heart attack, leaving his wife and kids behind. Last year, one of my best friends from high school died at the age of 38 from a massive heart attack.
Heart disease and plaque buildup (atherosclerosis) are very common in Southeast Asians. I am passionate about researching what makes us vulnerable as Southeast Asians and what we can do to prevent it and detect heart disease earlier.
I came to this country at the age of 21 with a one-way ticket, two suitcases, and a heart full of dreams! I worked relentlessly, focusing on the journey rather than the destination, and tried to give my best in every given scenario. I was available whenever and wherever I was needed as a resident, fellow, and attending at the hospitals I trained at. I tried to never have 'no' in my vocabulary and worked hard and managed to learn from the best in the world and apply the knowledge and skills for the greater good for my patients.
My personal moment of triumph in my research career was when I was selected to present a paper as a young investigator award (once at The American Heart Association in 2009 and International Society of Nuclear Cardiology in 2008). This is a very prestigious conference where out of thousands of research papers submitted, only the top five are selected for a presentation in front of delegate cardiologists from all over the world. I was the first person from my university (University of Connecticut) and my medical school to achieve this honor.
Ever since I was a child, I knew I'd end up spending my life taking care of others in the field of medicine. I was gifted with extraordinary mathematics skills, won a number of prestigious national awards in math, and went into the Indian Math Olympics at the age of 14. At 17, I went to medical school, despite being selected to attend the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology (IIT). Most people would have chosen IIT and eventually trained to take a corporate job (75% of CEO’s in India come from IIT).
Even at the age of 17, I knew I wanted to spend my life in clinical medicine. After completing medical school at Gujarat University with six gold medals for securing the highest possible scores in medicine and surgery, I moved to America to pursue further education. I knew right away that I would become a cardiologist.
As an intern during my rotations in cardiac ICU at The University of Connecticut, I experienced an adrenaline rush making life and death decisions in a matter of a split second, seeing cardiac interventions that brought people back to life, and holding the hands of anxious family members and reassuring them. I learned new technologies and had a deep penchant for being at the forefront of medical innovations. After these experiences, I couldn't imagine being in any other specialty. I knew interventional cardiology was my higher calling.
After working for large healthcare organizations for years, I realized that the need for change in the healthcare system is necessary and inevitable, but it is very slow at large organizations. Often, large healthcare organizations (HCO’s) suffer from bureaucracy like any other corporation. Despite being in leadership roles at the hospitals I worked at, I felt like I was riding an elephant.
It is possible to steer the elephant with patience and persistence, but it would take time, and the changes would be slow. For example, you would know that certain new technologies and innovations are needed for better and more comprehensive patient care, but bringing this technology to large HCO’s would require jumping through a lot of hoops, red tape, and a stringent approval process.
We live in a very challenging time when major healthcare decisions are determined based on some numbers on an excel spreadsheet, rather than keeping the patient’s best interest in mind.
Additionally, many Americans do not realize that people in larger cities and more desirable places to live will end up receiving better healthcare facilities and a better talent pool of doctors. Underserved and urban areas with poorly insured patients are less likely to get talented doctors and state of the art facilities.
Once I realized this, I decided to build a cardiology and vascular practice focused on patient care that could cater to these underserved populations. I wanted to bring world-class expertise to underserved areas in New Jersey. I take care of many patients with no insurance.
After seven years of working in hospitals such as Good Samaritan Hospital, Mount Sinai and Hackensack, I started my own private practice, Apex Heart and Vascular Care. Apex is a cardiology and vascular practice in New Jersey that provides cutting edge cardiovascular care.
We innovate and constantly change and adapt. For example, if someone has high blood pressure and they come to our office, we not only treat them but we also spend a lot of time explaining to them how they developed high blood pressure and what they can do differently. Our clinicians stay in touch with the patients to motivate them to take charge of their health and modify their lifestyle.