Shubhra Shetty, MD said she’s always found fulfillment in three things: in being intellectually challenged, in caring for others and teaching. That’s why medicine was her natural career choice. “I liked the sciences and I liked taking care of people – medicine is a mix of the head and the heart. I can’t think of any other profession that combines them quite as well,” she said.
After graduating with her MD from Armed Forces Medical College Pune in India, Dr. Shetty headed to Brooklyn for her residency in internal medicine. When she arrived at SUNY Health Science Center, she didn’t know that she was about to receive a second calling of sorts. It was the early 1990s, the apex of the AIDS crisis. She was among an early group of U.S. doctors to treat AIDS patients who, at that time, could avail themselves of virtually no known medicines or treatments. The virus proved lethal to most of her early patients, but Dr. Shetty found something profound and meaningful in caring for them. “You had to have a lot of heart to care for them – they were so young and so ill. And I loved the patients themselves and the progress being made against the disease.”
The experience encouraged Dr. Shetty to pursue a fellowship in infectious disease at Thomas Jefferson University. During that time, Dr. Shetty’s husband, Ajay Shetty, MD, joined a Scranton-based practice. The move prompted Dr. Shetty to accept a position at the Scranton Temple Residency Program, now The Wright Center for Graduate Medical Education. It introduced her to another passion – teaching – and to Scranton’s developing HIV/AIDs clinic, founded by Stephen Pancoast, MD.
Dr. Shetty was instrumental in expanding the clinic to seven counties and to obtaining funding, which still supports the clinic. “We are now a multi-disciplinary clinic with more than 400 patients – the only one of our kind in northeastern Pennsylvania,” she said. “At the clinic, our team cares for their patients’ complex physical, spiritual and emotional needs. The environment is tailor-made for teaching our medical students, who are challenged from day one to focus on the patient as a whole person, not a disease process. “I tell my students that treating patients with HIV prepares them to handle other chronic disease, like diabetes. You have to learn to keep patients motivated and to keep taking their medications long-term.”