One of Arkansas City’s own has been published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Dr. Cassie Shaw, a 2006 Arkansas City High School graduate, has started blogging about her experiences in the medical field.
She currently is chief resident in internal medicine at Saint Louis University Hospital in Saint Louis, Missouri.
“In school, I loved both English and science,” Shaw said. “Had I had any bit of the risktaker gene in me, I probably would have chosen to be a writer.”
She said her career path was necessarily an inspired choice.
“I’ve never truly had an ‘ah-ha’ moment that inspired me to pursue medicine,” she said. “Oddly enough, as a child, I was fascinated with going to appointments with my mom or my sister, and seeing all the traditions and motions the physicians performed during the history and physical exam.”
Shaw’s blog with the New England Journal of Medicine can be read at blogs.jwatch.org/general-medicine/index.php/2017/08/is-transferring-a-patient-to-the-icu-a-failure.
Shaw says her love of science always had a biological focus.
“When I say I liked science, I truly only loved human science,” she said. “I love the intricacies of our physiology — the careful balance that maintains us in good health — and (I) continue to be amazed by the reserve and elasticity the body has when it comes to illness and recovery.”
There are other things that pushed Shaw to pursue a career in the medical field.
“I’ve always loved a good mystery and medicine offers a lot of mystery,” she said. “I love chasing clues and finding a diagnosis.”
Shaw said she always has been what she calls a “social but independent worker.”
“I love to organize and steer a team, while still being able to interact with others throughout the day,” she said.
“With all of those boxes to check, being a physician is really the only career that ever appealed to me and fit the bill.”
On her journey to St. Louis, Shaw had a multitude of people who pushed her each step of the way while she was in Ark City.
She still has contact with many of them, even if only from a distance.
“I feel like this is what makes Ark City so special, because it’s a tight-knit community that is truly the definition of ‘it takes a village to raise a child,’” Shaw said, “and without the many influences I had throughout my 18 years there — and even after — I would be a very different person.”
Some of them are “constant cheerleaders” to her.
“I would love to name names, but it would honestly be a list of 10 to 15 people,” she said. “I hope that they know who they are because I appreciate every single one of them and I hope that they know that even a simple ‘like’ on Facebook has been (an) encouragement when I’ve needed it.”
Shaw family support
There are some very obvious people who fall into that group, including Shaw’s mother, Tami, and her father, Kevin.
Tami Shaw, who still lives here, is someone who can be counted on in any situation and gives all of herself to everything she does, her daughter said.
“She might be the most reliable person I’ve ever met,” said Cassie Shaw. “She has taught me kindheartedness and she’s probably the one who instilled in me to say ‘yes’ to every opportunity and figure it out later.”
Her father, who no longer lives in Ark City, also is a constant support in Shaw’s life. “He is always checking in on how I’m doing and has always been one of my biggest fans throughout life,” she said. “He never fails to tell me exactly how proud he is of me.
“The greatest thing about both of them has been that neither of them pushed me in a specific direction. They wanted me to try my hardest in whatever I wanted to do, but it didn’t have to be anything in specific. No matter what I’ve done, they’ve both celebrated me.”
Shaw received her bachelor’s degree from Pittsburg State University and went on to receive her medical doctorate at the University of Kansas School of Medicine. She recently graduated from her internal medicine residency.
“I am officially a trained internist. Internists practice adult medicine and a large focus of my training is on the acutely ill in the hospital,” Shaw said.
“While I did train in outpatient (care and) primary care medicine, as well, my passion truly lies in the inpatient setting, so I will be practicing as a hospitalist.”
Medicine is not the only facet of being a physician, though.
“Being hospitalized and sick is a stressful and vulnerable time for people,” Shaw said.
“In pursuing a career as a hospitalist, I also get the opportunity to build a trusting relationship with a variety of patients in a very short time. Most often, I get to be by their side … see them recover from their illness and cheer them to the finish line of their treatment as they are discharged.
“Other times, I am the one to break bad news of life-changing diagnoses or, even less commonly, I help them pass on peacefully and with dignity to the next step of their journey. These are situations that aren’t seen in other professions and opportunities to care for people in ways I wouldn’t get to otherwise.”
Those who can, also teach
In addition to pursuing hospitalist medicine, Shaw is choosing to be an academic hospitalist.
This means that she not only cares for patients, but she also trains residents.
“I get to watch them grow — mold their techniques, habits and thought processes,” Shaw said.
“Plus, we get to work as an even more collaborative team to take care of patients. While taking care of people at their weakest moments is the most rewarding thing I have done, teaching others to do the same is a close second.”
In the medical world, there is no difference between teaching and being an academic hospitalist.
“As an academic hospitalist, you teach every day on rounds and also give more structured lectures to both residents and medical students,” she said.
“Currently, I do both as a chief resident and I love it.”
Interests and plans
Currently, Shaw lives with her boyfriend, Dr. Nick Rockefeller. They have been together for almost eight years.
In the future, they would like to end up living in one of the Western states.
“We both love the outdoors, including hiking, paddle boarding, kayaking and rock climbing,” Shaw said.
“Nick is doing a fellowship, which is another specialized training beyond residency, in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery, and has matched in an amazing program in Albuquerque, New Mexico, so we are headed there in June.
“I’m currently applying for positions at the University of New Mexico as an academic hospitalist. We will be there for at least three years and it will help fulfill our goals of getting to serve a complex patient population while being in an area that allows us to spend ample time in the outdoors.”
Outside of her medical career, Shaw takes part in a medical society book club through Saint Louis University.
She also loves music and concerts — specifically, independent rock and folk music.
“I usually go to at least one live show per month,” she said. “Last year, I was lucky enough to see 16 shows in Saint Louis.”
Shaw’s other passions include the outdoors, eating at and trying new restaurants, and traveling.
“I’m looking forward to being able to have the time to travel even more now that I’m finished with residency,” she said.