Career Series: Q&A with an Allergy & Immunology Physician

Dr. Shah’s interview by Women in White Coats!

Ever wondered what its like to be an Allergy & Immunology specialist or what it takes? Dr. Kena Shah, an Allergy & Immunology specialist, shares the inside scoop in our latest Q & A.

What is your title?
Allergy & Immunology Specialist

What is your field?
Allergy, Asthma, Immunology, Internal Medicine, Public Health

How did you decide to go into your field?
There are many reasons why I like the field of allergy & Immunology: 

1. It provides diversity in the acuity of illnesses in patients. 
2. I can see both adults and pediatric patients. 
3. I can follow individual patients throughout their life and also provide care for their family members of all ages. 
4. I wanted to work more in an office setting while still being able to do consultations in the hospital. 
5. I wanted a good lifestyle.

Dr. Kena Shah

How many years did you study and train? Where did you go to school and train?
I studied for 12 years after high school. 3 years of undergraduate, 4 years of medical school, 3 years of internal medicine residency, and 2 years of allergy and immunology fellowship. I did my undergraduate at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Medical school at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine – GA campus. Residency at the Jefferson Health of New Jersey. Fellowship at Nova Southeastern University.

What are some things you enjoy about your chosen field?
I like the diversity in my patient population. By sub-specializing in allergy, I see common diseases such as allergic rhinitis, asthma, atopic dermatitis, urticaria, angioedema, and food allergies – this helps me improve the “quality of life” of patients. While the subspecialty of immunology, offers me the opportunity to see rare and potentially life threatening disorders of the immune system – this makes me feel like I am actually “saving” lives and making a difference. So, this field provides me a perfect balance.

What are somethings you wish were different about your chosen field? What are some of the challenges you face within your field? Were there obstacles you had to overcome?
1. There have been a lot of other specialties who now do allergy testing just because it is very lucrative. The biggest challenge allergists face is dissuading these patients when they are given an incorrect diagnosis from other specialties who perform allergy testing. 
2. Charting – I wish I had to chart less, so I could get more face time with my patients.

What is your lifestyle like? What are your hours like? Do you take call?
I have a very balanced lifestyle – I don’t work weekends, nights or holidays. I have a fairly flexible schedule during the week days as well so I can be present for my family when needed. 

What advice would you give to women considering pursuing a career in your field? Would you recommend your field to them?
I would start by asking yourself the following questions – 

1. Do you want to see kids or adults? (Internal medicine vs pediatrics) 
2. Do you want to work primarily in a hospital setting or clinic? 
3. Are you more of a hands-on person or visual (surgery vs dermatology)? 
4. Do you like to see a variety in your patient population or would you rather be in a specialized field and see comparatively less variety? (primary care vs specialty medicine). 
5. Are you okay working nights/weekends? (ER/ICU/hospitalists vs rheumatology/PM&R/dermatology/allergy Immunology/ophthalmology).

To answer your question about whether I would recommend the field of allergy & immunology – Absolutely yes, I love my field and If I had to do it all over again, I would pick this field once again.

Is there anything else you would like to share with readers about your field?
It’s an amazing field. And like, I said above, I would do it all over again if I had to. If any of you prospective students and residents are interested in knowing more about the field, feel free to contact me!

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