“When I started on this, there was nobody else available, so I volunteered myself. I came halfway across the world from where I was born, and I believe there must be a reason why I am here...”
Leonard L. Boswell
“DEVOTED TO ABUSED INFANTS AND CHILDREN”
In retrospect, it was fortunate that when Rizwan Shah came to the United States from Pakistan in 1968 she found no openings in her medical specialty at the time--surgery. So she took a hiatus from medicine to stay home and raise a family with her husband.
After a few years, she returned to medicine and switched fields to specialize in pediatrics. While practicing in Iowa in 1981, she became aware of an epidemic sweeping the country at the time that was especially devastating to children but that few would acknowledge-crack cocaine. By 1989, she was devoting herself full-time caring for abused children victimized by their parents' or caregiver's crack abuse.
"When I started," said Shah, "nobody acknowledged that drug abuse affected children. It was not understood that drug abuse and child abuse are often associated. When I started on this, there was nobody else available, so I volunteered myself. I came halfway across the world from where I was born, and I believe there must be a reason why I am here.
"My practice is not high-tech. Sometimes during an exam, a child will get tense, so I just stop, hold him or her in my arms and let them cry it out. I'll talk to the caretakers-the foster parents or the grandparents and educate them. I practice the art of medicine not just the science of medicine. I try to leave the child with the message that you can rise above the abuse and neglect and be somebody," she says, passionately.
Nominated by Rep. Leonard L. Boswell (D-IA-3), Shah, came to Des Moines in 1974 for a residency in pediatrics at the Blank Children's Hospital. Fortunately for the children of Des Moines, she stayed on, caring for them and becoming, now, Medical Director of Blank's Regional Child Protection Center. She has taught widely on the linkage between child abuse and drug abuse and was one of a group of physicians to receive the Award of Merit from the Iowa Medical Society, in 1999, for helping to facilitate the establishment of children's health programs in Iowa.
Shah teaches child abuse training programs both in Iowa and nationally, as well as clinical teaching in medical schools and hospitals. She has served as President of the Iowa Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and Co-Chair of the Iowa Medical Society's Public Health Committee
"I'd like to be remembered as a physician who was not afraid to stand alone and speak for children; as somebody who addressed the social issues of their times," Shah explains. "I couldn't have hundreds of children of my own, but now in additional to my three children, I feel I have thousands of children. If I can make a difference in just one child's life, I may help that child to grow up to be a capable parent and care for his or her own children and in that way break the circle of neglect and abuse in that family."
Appointed Director of Pediatrics, Broadlawns Hospital, Des Moines
Appointed Member of Teaching Faculty, Blank Children's Hospital, Des Moines
Appointed Medical Director, Child Abuse Program, Blank Children's Hospital
Appointed Clinical Associate Professor, University of Iowa, Iowa City
Fatima Jinnah Medical College, Lahore, Pakistan
Forensic Pediatrics with Focus on Abused Children