Know Your Heroes: Shail Rawal

Know Your Heroes showcases the many different people and roles that make up #TeamUHN. We celebrate these people, who strive to make the world a healthier place every day. 

Name: Shail Rawal
Title: Internal Medicine Physician
Years working in health care: 7
I was born and raised in: Markham

I decided to get into health care because my grandfather was a public health physician and the dean of a medical school in India. I grew up listening to his stories and was inspired by his dedication to the community he served. For me, the practice of medicine is my way of trying to better the world by caring for others in their time of need.

My role here at UHN is to care for patients with complex medical conditions who are admitted to the hospital. On a given day, I might care for a patient with heart failure, one with complications of alcohol withdrawal, one with advanced cancer and one whose diagnosis is still a mystery. I’m also a researcher who studies health equity; I focus on patients whose primary language is not English. What I see at the bedside informs the questions I ask in my research.

COVID-19 has affected me by changing many dimensions of my life. I’ve directly cared for patients with COVID-19 and the experience has been challenging, rich and rewarding. For the first time in my career, I’ve thought about the relationship between my work and my personal safety, and that of my family. I’ve also seen firsthand how those marginalized in our community have been disproportionately harmed by the pandemic. This experience has shaped my research and advocacy.

The thing I love the most about my job is the stories I hear from my patients, their loved ones, my students and colleagues.

The most incredible thing I’ve seen at work is the shared sense of purpose that all members of UHN’s internal medicine team had in the weeks leading up to the first wave of COVID-19. We didn’t know what was to come, but we knew we would be caring for patients hospitalized with the infection. We developed a new model of care for patients with COVID-19 and everyone played their part—from nursing, to social work, to interpretation services and more.

One of my personal heroes is Nancy Krieger because she’s an accomplished epidemiologist whose work has shaped our understanding of health equity. She was one of my professors when I did my Masters of Public Health, and I’m in awe of how kind and generous of a teacher she is. We still correspond, and she inspires me to be a better teacher for my students, and to think critically about how my work can improve the health of the populations I care for.

I sometimes worry about the future. Like many people, I’ve spent a fair bit of time this year thinking about the children in my life and what the future holds. I hope that we can collectively meet the challenges of COVID, climate change and broader inequity.

I’ve found joy recently from watching my son and dog play together. My son is a toddler and my dog is old and set in his ways. Watching them play is simple, sweet and beautiful.

My favourite movie is Moonlight because it’s visually stunning and the story is so tenderly told. I remember the feeling of watching it in a full theatre with my husband and a close friend. There was a long silence after it ended and then the audience burst into applause. I hope we can return to watching movies in theatre soon!

My ideal day off is time outdoors with my family, time indoors with a good book and a long dinner to end the day with friends at a restaurant.

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