StoryCorps at SHC: Jay Shah

You've done something very therapeutic just letting them talk.


Jay Shah: You know, you go to a cocktail party and people will talk your ear off about their tennis elbow or their knee or their blood pressure even, but no one feels comfortable talking about their erectile dysfunction or their incontinence or a lotta the things that urologists deal with. So, when you meet a physician, a urologist, who makes you feel comfortable talking about these things, even before you've done anything for that patient, even before you've written them a prescription or done a procedure on them, you've done something very therapeutic, just letting them talk.

To find a doctor who says, "I hear you. Come... Bring me your problems. I'm comfortable managing this. We'll get you through this." I think that that is tremendously powerful for so many people.

For most of the patients that I see, they come with their life kind of ripped apart. They've been told by somebody else who probably doesn't focus just on cancer that they have this bad problem, and whether it's a low-stage early cancer or it's advanced cancer, the word cancer for most patients is deafening. Once you're told you have cancer, that's it. The, the pink elephant is in the room. You know, everything else is just background noise.

I think, as surgeons, a lot of us think that the key thing we contribute to a patient's care is the thing we do with the knife. And I don't necessarily agree with that all the time. I think the key thing we provide is that source of comfort. Just letting patients know that you hear them. Just to be able to look at a patient directly in the eyes and say, "I hear you."

After I take out their bladder I give them my cell phone number. Not because I expect that they're going to call me for every little thing, but I want them to know that I'm available. I'm not disappearing just because I've finished your operation. And on Christmas, Easter, graduation time, weddings, I- I get, birthdays, I get all kinds of texts from patients. A lot of times it's a patient standing on top of a mountain with a beautiful view behind them saying, "Just wanted to thank you for this moment." And for me that, that is so awesome to know that these patients are here and I was able to contribute to them enjoying their life like that.

I have a patient who just sent me a picture from her daughter's medical school graduation which, four years ago, when she was diagnosed with pretty high-stage cancer she wasn't thinking she would be around to, to enjoy. So, it's those kinds of patient interactions for me that really stick out and they drive a lot of what gets me up and going every day.

It was that desire to, to want to be useful to society and to feel like I'm doing something meaningful that drove me to, to be a doctor.  I don't know the last time I left work feeling like I'd wasted a day.

Sound Editor: Carolina Correa

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