As part of Women’s History Month, Dr. Shefali Mahesh, medical staff president, endowed chair of pediatric medicine and subspecialty cluster director, and division director for nephrology and dialysis, shares her thoughts on her career and what it means to be a woman in medicine.
What is your role at Akron Children’s and how long have you been with the hospital?
I joined Akron Children’s in 2008, coming up on 14 years in August 2022. I serve as medical staff president, associate chair of pediatrics and subspecialty cluster director, and division director for nephrology and dialysis.
Do you have a favorite memory or can you share what you love most about your job?
I love the connections that I create with my patients and their families. Learning what’s important to them personally and working alongside them to achieve their goals is the single most important thing that determines their health outcomes. Kids are great negotiators; we have to meet them where they are.
I love watching kids being kids, go through school, college, hearing about their sports activities, birthdays, sweet sixteen, graduations, weddings. Some even stay connected when they have kids. I have a wall full of these special moments that help me get through a tough day and are a constant reminder of why I went into medicine in the first place. That is by far the most precious memory, and I have the privilege of continuing to add to it.
What does it mean to you to be a woman in medicine?
It’s an inspiring and challenging time to be a woman in healthcare.
Its inspiring to see that women in the physician workforce increased from 28% in 2007 to 36% in 2019. While traditionally women have been more focused in child and family specialties, and female representation in surgical specialties is a minority, this is fast changing. We have a lot to be proud of at Akron Children’s. We have female neurosurgeons, orthopedic surgeons and soon our first female urologist.
Our challenge is to continue to support the diversity and wellness of the right candidate in healthcare. 2019 was the first year that the majority of medical students enrolled in the U.S. were female. We are on our way, and we must get this right. Those of us that are already here have the responsibility of being the change agents.
I often get asked if I have a family, time for my kids sports and extracurricular activities; essentially, “do I have a life?” My answer to aspiring female physicians is, there will be challenges, we need you to embrace them.
Is there a woman in history who has made a big impact in your life or inspired you for any special reason?
Growing up, I experienced the first and only female Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi. She was only the second female head of state in the world at that time. While her tenure was controversial, she had several accomplishments to her credit, including the first Indian to go to space, facilitating India’s foreign policy and putting India on the global radar.