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VIProfile: Aruna Shah

By Lee Rennick

Medicine right now is in a constant state of learning due to the pandemic, and Aruna Shah finds it all fascinating. Although once torn between medicine and law, she ultimately chose a career in medicine because she finds the human body so interesting.

“Every day I am putting together pieces of a puzzle and coming up with a diagnosis,” said Shah. “It never gets boring, though sometimes we could use a bit of boredom. This past year with the evolution of COVID-19, I was learning new information every day from diagnosis to treatment, sometimes things changed by the hour.”

Shah is a physician with Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) Student Health Services. She says that luck brought her to MTSU Health Services. “I was introduced to the then Medical Director’s wife, Margie Spangler, at the Medical Alliance New Physicians Breakfast. Her husband called me the next day and gave me hours that were perfect for me. I really wanted a job that would allow me to be involved with my three young children. I have been with MTSU Health Services since 2009, initially as needed and now I am full time for nine months out of the year. I started working full time at the end of February 2020 and had no idea how much COVID would impact my work at MTSU and the life of our family. It has been especially scary for our kids as they stayed home for school, and we had to be at work and try to stay healthy to keep them safe.”

The pandemic completely changed the MTSU clinic. Their priority became to keep the staff healthy and safe. Initially, the team was separated into two different groups to prevent the entire clinic from potentially being contaminated.

Working closely with administration, athletics and housing to keep their students safe, Medical Director, Dr. Eric Clark, has been on the forefront of handling the changes and policies in dealing with Coronavirus. Shah’s role has been to manage the clinic’s services day to day.

“Our administration and staff have been beyond excellent,” said Shah. “We have such an amazing, flexible team of Physician’s Assistants, Nurse Practitioners, Nurses, Lab Personnel and Front-End Staff at MTSU Student Health. I do not know how we could have gotten through this year without the incredible team work.”

During 2020 the MTSU Clinic made whatever needed to happen to keep students and staff safe happen, sometimes on a dime. They did COVID testing by creating a drive-up station behind health services to decrease disease spread. Nothing got in their way -- they worked in the heat, the cold, the rain and the winds. Also important was to do contact tracing. This meant figuring out isolations, quarantines and calling contacts. Initially, they even had to contact trace athletes, but eventually the Athletic Trainers took over handling the athletes. They also called parents and students regarding test results. In March of 2021, when vaccines became more available, they began administering vaccines.

“We reached full circle,” said Shah. “I really felt like I learned so much about COVID-19, in addition to handling regular medical issues.” MTSU Student Health Services provides primary care and women’s health services. These services include student and student athlete physicals, minor surgical procedures, lab assessments and testing, immunizations, provision of a pharmacy, promotion of healthy lifestyles and self-assessments, nutrition counseling, substance abuse prevention and treatment, weight management, sexual health, mental health and much more.

“I take care of students and oversee mid-level providers,” said Shah “We counsel them with regards to diet, exercise, health conscious decisions and safe practices. We provide nutrition counseling, and our wellness program provides many different activities for students. I really enjoy teaching my patients about disease process.”

Seeing a variety of students and athletes, Shah’s duties can range from dealing with a runny nose to a broken bone. They also help all registered students take care of chronic medical conditions, such as asthma, diabetes and hypertension. Previous to coming to MTSU, Shah worked in private practice for Holston Medical Group in East Tennessee, where her husband is from. She was born and raised in Kansas, where her parents and brother still live. Her parents immigrated to the United States in the late 1960s. She is the mother of three kids, Suren, Ashna and Anusham.

Graduating from Boston College with a Bachelor’s of Science in Chemistry, Shah continued to Saint George’s University for Medical School. That is where she met her husband, Dr. Vishant Shah, who is a hospitalist at Saint Thomas Rutherford. She completed her residency in Family Practice at the University of Tennessee - Knoxville.

“I enjoy my work so much and the way we have become a strong team together,” said Shah.

“We exchange books, play jokes on one another and even have fun cooking contests. It is truly a group that has come together in the best of times and the worst of times.”

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