Dr. Shefali Mahesh has been named Dr. Noah Miller Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Akron Children’s Hospital.
Dr. Mahesh joined Akron Children’s in 2008 as a pediatric nephrologist, most recently serving as director of Pediatric Nephrology & Dialysis. She is also president of the medical staff.
She shares a little more about her new role and herself.
What inspired you to become a physician?
I knew I wanted to be a physician from the time I was a 6-year-old little girl growing up in India. My grandmother had cancer, which made a big impact on me. I remember being at the hospital and the doctors letting me walk around with a stethoscope. Initially, I wanted to be a neonatologist, but during my pediatric residency, I realized how much I enjoyed talking to my patients and building relationships. Babies don’t talk.
What are the primary responsibilities of your new role?
My role is combined as chair of pediatrics at Akron Children’s and at Northeast Ohio Medical University (NEOMED). At Children’s, this includes accountability for hospital-based services such as hospital medicine, pediatric intensive care, neonatal intensive care and emergency medicine, and all the non-surgical pediatric subspecialties. I will work with these teams to develop strategies for growth and sustainability, enhance family-centered, high quality care, recruit and retain diverse talent, and promote an environment of alignment and fulfillment. With NEOMED, I will strive to further our hospital’s academic mission and enhance pediatric training in the region.
Will you continue to see patients?
My best days are still my patient-facing days, and I will continue to see patients. It keeps me centered, grounded and defines who I am.
How has your time as a medical staff leader prepared you for this role?
Being part of the executive leadership of the medical staff has been incredibly beneficial in giving me a 30,000-foot view of the organization and how our board and senior leadership are aligned in achieving our mission. I’ve started with a short runway – both in interacting with leadership at that level and in inspiring our people to reach their potential while we keep our mission alive.
What are you most excited about as you step into this new position?
We’ve had a tumultuous time with COVID. We are now on the cusp of emerging from the pandemic with strong, solid leadership, which makes me feel hopeful for the future. There have been so many uncertainties with the pandemic, and there are still many challenges in health care. One thing is clear – it’s a time to be flexible, try new methods of doing things and be willing to adapt. Burnout occurs when one doesn’t feel aligned with the mission. I’m excited to connect the dots between our leadership and clinical teams, so we can all be inspired and hopeful for the future.
What do you see as the biggest opportunities for pediatric health care in general and Akron Children’s in particular?
We are at a crossroads between fee-for-service and value-based care; we are well-positioned with Akron Children’s Health Collaborative. Traditionally, we have used research and academics to support and drive our care and now have greater opportunities to leverage technology and analytics. Workforce shortages are not going away any time soon, so we have an opportunity to figure out how to become more efficient and take care of our people without compromising quality of care. We have a massive regional footprint and do a great job of meeting kids where they are. We must strike a balance between growth and staying lean in order to remain competitive.
What do you see as the biggest challenges for pediatric health care and Akron Children’s?
One of our greatest strengths is our relationships. The challenge is balancing results with relationships, as one cannot be compromised for the other. As we move to value-based care, how do we balance accountability with empathy? Striking this balance must align with our mission and cultivate a culture that is true to who we are.
You are in a number of leadership roles. How do you juggle it all?
I work with great teams, so I feel very supported. I quickly realized that I don’t have to know everything right away, and I can take time to understand. There are several experts on the teams that I work with. I ask a lot of questions to educate myself. I also have a very supportive family. It’s exciting to see my daughters articulate their encouragement and recognize why this work is important to me.
What keeps you passionate about your job?
My patients, the kids – they ask great questions and force you to think and keep an open mind. They keep you challenged, honest and inspired. They often have no filter, which is very refreshing. Usually, the toughest questions come from the kids and not the parents.
Tell me about your family.
My husband, Sameer, is an oncologist at Summa Health. We have two daughters, 15-year-old Sehar and 13-year-old Sia.
What is one thing most people don’t know about you?
Some may already know this from my medical staff letter, but I collect inspiring quotes. I often send them to my daughters to keep them grounded and focused. It was nice to see that one of my daughters saves them on her phone.
Describe your perfect day.
It starts with exercise in the morning, then tea with my husband that energizes me for the day. The rest of the day is spent with my patients and helping my peers think through challenges and opportunities, and realizing their vision. At the end of the workday, watching my kids at a tennis match, followed by family dinner, then relaxing with TV or a book.