Photo by Shane Wynn
+Pediatric Nephrology, Akron Children’s Hospital
Dr. Shefali Mahesh was exposed to the health care field early in her life because her grandmother was battling cancer.
“The compassion with which my grandmother was treated, the respect that I continue to have for her oncologist and the nobility of the profession made a lasting impression, and I decided very early that I would pursue medicine,” she says.
Rather than specializing in adult nephrology, she chose pediatric nephrology because she recognized the challenges of dealing with infants who can’t communicate their ailments.
“That’s where the art of medicine becomes important, to assess the level of discomfort of the child,” she says. “Then there are the adolescent patients who want to be involved in their medical decision-making. They need to be handled with extreme caution so as to not lose their trust and confidence.”
Mahesh says in pediatrics, the doctor treats not just the young patient but also the patient’s family.
“When a child needs to come to the hospital three times a week for dialysis, the entire family’s personal and professional life is affected. We try to ensure that their school assignments are turned in, and a schoolteacher helps them while they are getting dialyzed,” she says. “Similarly, when we recommend dietary restrictions for our pediatric patients, the biggest challenge the family faces is to restrict one child or all the children in the family.”
She also knows that children with kidney failure may need two or three transplants in their lifetime.
“They’re an extraordinary group of people,” she says. “I learn everyday from their resilience, their ability to handle pain and discomfort and the ease with which they’re able to put things behind them and move forward.”
U.S. News & World Report ranks Akron Children’s nephrology department as one of the best among children’s hospitals nationwide, and Mahesh says the biggest challenge locally is coordinating the care of kidney transplant patients.
“Some of our patients and their families have never left the Akron area. When they need a kidney transplant, they need to be referred to transplant centers in the vicinity. There’s a lot of anxiety and apprehension associated with going to another center, and it takes coordination at a multidisciplinary level that can become overwhelming for our patients,” she says.
“It’s very difficult to have one of the most important surgeries of their life at a center where they haven’t had a chance to build a relationship with the physicians. Our attempt is to always ensure that they don’t become a number at the transplant center and receive the same personal care that they’re so used to receiving.”
In Her Spare Time, You’ll Find Her:
• Watching Her Girls Grow Up — “They’re experiencing a very different childhood than I did, since I didn’t grow up in this country.
We feel like we’re going through a second childhood with them. I enjoy spending time with my family, cooking for them and traveling with them.”