Neil A. Shah, M.D.
What attracted you to medicine and dermatology?
I grew up in a suburb of Chicago. I am the oldest child in a non-physician family. In fact, I come from a long line of engineers so medicine was an odd choice for me. Although I spent most of my pre-medical years considering surgery, it was with the guidance of a long-time friend and mentor, a dermatologist, that I became interested in dermatology.
Nearing the end of my residency, I am pleased with my decision. There is no other field in medicine or surgery where a physician is so well trained in pathology, medical diseases and surgical skills as dermatology. Dermatologists have a holistic understanding of the disease process that I have found extremely satisfying.
What makes the Mayo Clinic dermatology residency unique?
The two unique factors that attracted me to Mayo Clinic were the degree to which the residents were trusted to work autonomously during their senior year and the volume and quality of our surgical training.
While other residency programs still had third-year residents staffing uncomplicated acne cases, Mayo had their residents seeing and treating the full gamut of skin disease. Supervision is always available. At Mayo, however, they realize that senior residents are about to become attending physicians. It's very comforting to have the supervision there when you need it, but to make critical decisions on your own.
In terms of surgical cases I knew that Mayo residents left their training feeling absolutely comfortable operating on any area of the body. Mayo surgeons are excellent. Residents are exposed to run-of-the mill BCCs through large, complicated Mohs cases that require multiple surgical subspecialties. When I am finished with training, I will have completed more facial closures and excisions than my friend who is an ENT resident here. That type of volume and variety makes this dermatology residence an excellent training program for those who are considering making surgical dermatology a large part of their practice.
There is no other program that I have seen where there is an equivalent level of surgical volume, pathology training and autonomy. I really enjoy the amount of teaching and mentoring that we do on a daily basis as senior residents.
The most fun experience that I have had at Mayo has been teaching and mentoring junior residents. However, the most fun experience I have had over the whole program was being able to spend one month away in Cameroon at a rural hospital. Mayo supported the trip through a competitive grant process which helped defray most of the costs associated with the trip. The month away allowed me to see many interesting patients, teach foreign residents and give something back to those less fortunate.
What is living in Rochester like for you?
Rochester has changed quite a bit since I first came down here to do research as a medical student. Recently, Rochester surpassed Duluth as the second largest metro area in Minnesota. Although it's a bit sleepy compared to Minneapolis or another larger city, it is not bereft of things to do. There are quite a few decent bars and restaurants downtown. Minneapolis is a quick 75 minute drive north. If you're an outdoor enthusiast, there are many beautiful paths, parks and trails right in town.
What does your future look like right now?
I was fortunate to find a position starting the dermatology department for a large multispecialty group in the Twin Cities. In this position I will be seeing patients of all ages, performing a good deal of surgery and doing some cosmetic dermatology. As a senior resident you learn to become very efficient with your practice. You also learn and understand the intricacies of managing complex skin diseases, working closely with other specialists and becoming facile with administrative concepts such as billing and reimbursement. I believe that our training in these areas puts our residents far ahead of the curve when it comes time to enter practice.