RetinaLink Profile: Dr. Neepa Shah Discusses the Challenges of Attending Life & Presents a Complicated IOL Case

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RetinaLink is honored to feature Dr. Neepa Shah who grew up in Toronto, Canada and came to the US when she was 17-years-old to pursue her education. Dr. Shah completed college and medical school at Boston University as part of a combined liberal arts-medical education program in seven years. She did her internship training at Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia and went on to the University of Pennsylvania/Scheie Eye Institute for her ophthalmology residency training. Then, Dr. Shah completed surgical vitreoretinal fellowship training at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, New York and currently works at Kaiser Permanente in Southern California.

Neepa Shah, MD

RetinaLink (RL): Who are your female role models? 

Neepa Shah (NS): I’ve had lots of strong, positive female role models in all stages of my career. My mother, who is a family physician, inspired me to pursue a medical career, as I saw the generational bonds she created with her patients and their families. My sister, who is an endocrinologist, taught me about the dedication and commitment to pursuing a medical career.  In residency, I looked up to Dr. Joan O’Brien, one of 3 female chairs in the country, as she took excellent care of her patients and led the department, all while balancing a family life. In fellowship, I was fortunate to train with Dr. Mrinali Gupta, who is a meticulous surgeon and helped me develop strong surgical skills in the operating room.  Now in practice, I look up to Dr. Vivienne Hau, one of my colleagues at Kaiser, who helps me navigate through the challenges of being an attending.

RL: What do you find most challenging professionally?

NS: One of my biggest challenges professionally is being decisive. In a field where there are so many choices – not just in the OR between tools and instrumentation, but in the clinic with patients (to treat or not?), and medication options, it can be overwhelming.  I often ask my colleagues for their advice and involve patients in the decision making process, but struggle when their response is, do what you think…you know best!

RL: What’s your preferred small gauge platform?

NS: I prefer ALCON’s 25-gauge platform for the majority of my cases (retinal detachments, diabetic surgery, macular cases). I frequently use 27-gauge as well, especially for my sutured lens cases. [Click on the video with voiceover to see Dr. Shah’s entire case]

RL: What is your opinion of Intraoperative OCT? If you utilize it, does it change your surgical plan?

NS: I unfortunately don’t have access to intra-op OCT, but if I had it, I would definitely appreciate it in macular cases and complex PVR cases.

RL: What is your best advice to the incoming fellows that start in July?

NS: Be open to feedback and critique at all stages in your career. There are dozens of ways to do something in our field and be open to trying something you didn’t necessarily learn in training. Don’t beat yourself up about complications; consider them lessons that will shape you into a better clinician/surgeon.

RL: What is the best advice your Attendings provided? 

NS: One of the best pieces of advice an attending gave me in training was, “If you practice retina how I’ve taught you then I’ve failed as a teacher” implying that our field is constantly changing – with advents of subretinal therapy, perhaps port delivery systems for intravitreal drugs – that we need to progress with the times, and not get stuck in what we know from years ago.  On that note, I’d encourage young retinal surgeons to keep abreast of new information and surgical techniques through retina podcasts, journals, blogs, and attending conferences.

RL: Do you like to evaluate new devices and technology when they become available?

NS: Yes

RL: What is your favorite thing to do when you have some free time?

NS: I love spending time outdoors with my husband, especially when the weather is nice – we enjoy hiking, going to the beach, and exploring local farmers’ markets. I also enjoy cooking and baking.

Dr. Neepa Shah can be reached via e-mail –