A wise mentor once told Susan Shah, MD: “Listen to and talk to your patients. The answers are always there when you truly connect with patients and families.” She took this advice to heart and made it a motto she lived by as a pediatrician at Akron Children’s Hospital Pediatrics, Twinsburg. With every patient family, she took the time to get to know them personally to better meet their needs and care for the whole patient.
It was evident in her patient interactions. Dr. Shah recalls fondly while conversing with a colleague in the hall, one of her young patients walked by and proclaimed, “Dr. Shah, I pee in the potty now!” He was so excited, and they high-fived as he walked by.
It’s bonds like this that Dr. Shah considers not only her biggest accomplishments, but also what brought her the most satisfaction throughout her 27-year career at Akron Children’s. She is proud to have formed long-standing relationships with patient families — with some even spanning generations now.
Dr. Shah jokes the best part about her role is seeing old friends — both patients and staff — all day long, and that’s what she will truly miss as she retires on Nov. 4. For her next chapter, she looks forward to having more time for her other loves: crafting, globe-trotting with her husband and strengthening bonds with her own family, especially her newest grandson, Ravi. After all, she has always been a “family-first kinda person” — whether it’s Akron Children’s or her own.
What brought you to Akron Children’s?
I am originally from northeast Ohio, but I was attending Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans. I came to Akron Children’s as a fourth-year medical student to do a rotation with former infectious disease specialist Dr. Blaise Congeni. While here, I got to know the pediatric department chair at the time. He was on the Redbook Committee with a physician that I knew from New Orleans, and they both would agree they were fighting for me to come to each of their programs to study pediatrics. This made me feel very important, and it drew me to Akron Children’s.
Describe your role here. Did you always work in the same department?
I have always been a general pediatrician. I was one of the first doctors to work for Akron Children’s Hospital Pediatrics. I began working in the Fairlawn location, but after 6 weeks I went on maternity leave to have my daughter. When I returned, I opened the Twinsburg location. I have been here for 27 years.
What have been your biggest contributions while here?
I have always participated in the clinical management committee, making decisions on how the primary care offices would run. I have formed lasting relationships with colleagues and patient families that have spanned generations. I have a couple families that I am now caring for third-generation patients.
What achievements are you most proud of?
The long-standing relationships with patients and families have been my biggest accomplishments and have brought me the greatest satisfaction. I always say, “The best part of my job is it’s like seeing old friends all day long!”
With so many little children here, did someone or something especially touch your heart?
The kids constantly keep me laughing with their very honest comments and responses. Once I was conversing with a resident in the hallway, and a young child came walking down the hall and proclaimed, “Dr. Shah, I pee in the potty now!” He was so excited, and we high-fived as he walked by.
What was the hardest part of your job?
The hardest part of the job has always been delivering serious bad news to families. Luckily, I haven’t had to do that too many times in my career.
What piece of advice did someone give you when you were young that still resonates with you today?
My mentor, Dr. Pouncy, who I met in New Orleans told me to “listen to and talk with your patients.” She said the answers are always there when you truly connect with a patient and family. They need to be heard and will follow your advice if they know you truly understand them. This has been great advice over the years.
What do you look forward to the most in retirement?
I am so excited to have the time to do the things I’ve not been able to do because of my career. I love doing crafts, such as scrapbooking and stitching. I also love to travel. My husband, who is also retiring in November, and I intend to go to India and Australia soon. But most of all, I have a new grandson, Ravi, who is 5 months old, and I look forward to spending lots of time with him and the rest of my family.
What couldn’t you live without?
I need people in my life. I couldn’t live without my family and friends. The staff in my office has also been like my family, and they will be dearly missed. Many of them have worked with me for many years! I will return frequently for lunch, which is like therapy for me, once I leave.
What’s one thing about you most people don’t know?
I was a very shy child. My kindergarten teacher once told my mom that if she didn’t let me go first for the Easter Egg hunt that I wouldn’t have gotten any eggs. I became much more outgoing as I got older. I was the valedictorian of my senior class and a cheerleader in high school.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Relax, and don’t sweat the small stuff. Things have a way of working out. Enjoy the journey, as it goes by so fast.
What events in your life made you who you are today?
My mother was a nurse at Hattie Larlham, a home for severely mentally handicapped children, for 30 years. I would always say, “I want to be a nurse, just like you, mom.” She would always reply, “No, you want to be a doctor. You want to be the boss and give the orders.” I liked the sound of that. She also always encouraged me to be and do whatever I wanted. She said I could do anything if I put my mind to it. She was right, and she is a big reason why I became a doctor and caretaker!