Shahnaz Fatteh, MD

Shahnaz Fatteh, MD

FMA Member Physician highlight

Prepared to Lead

By Rosanne Dunkelberger, Contributing Writer

Broward County-based allergist/immunologist Shahnaz Fatteh, MD, felt the need to increase her growth and community involvement as a physician, and to connect in a collaborative way with other colleagues across South Florida. She completed the Physician Leadership Academy (PLA) of South Florida, and a year after that, joined the FMA’s Karl M. Altenburger, MD Physician Leadership Academy, graduating in 2018.

Dr. Fatteh was elected President of the Broward County Medical Association with a term starting in December 2019.

And then came COVID.

She credits her previous leadership with preparing her to handle the myriad of challenges that came her way, often while serving as the voice of physicians throughout the crisis. “This pandemic was completely unexpected in many ways,” Dr. Fatteh explained. “Learning how to be flexible, adaptable and working with not just physicians, but also administrators at hospitals, mayors, FEMA and distributors in any number of ways. We had to think about vaccines, vaccine distribution, testing, getting PPE to the private doctors, figuring out how to get loans from the federal government.

“There were so many things I had to respond to rapidly and quickly … to get information and engage doctors in our community. All that training really gave me a sense of stability and I felt I had a solid foundation to build on so I could respond to those needs.”

Board-certified in asthma, allergy and immunology with a private practice, Dr. Fatteh holds leadership positions in several local, state, and national organizations relating to her specialty, women physicians, and physicians of Indian origin.

She is active with the Broward County Medical Women’s Association. “This is another way to put your ear to the ground and listen to your colleagues about their concerns and needs,” Dr. Fatteh said. “One of the things you learn very quickly is that we all may go through leadership training and we may have same skill sets as our male counterparts, but often women are not in the top tier of leadership. This is another way for us to communicate with and learn from each other.”

Dr. Fatteh is also a faculty clinical associate faculty professor at Nova Southeastern University’s Dr. Kiran C. Patel College of Osteopathic Medicine with an onsite clinic in her specialty. She currently is participating in a $4-million study headed by Nancy Klimas, MD, to gather information on the lingering symptoms that continue to plague COVID “long-haulers.”

While she is gathering information about the long-term effects of COVID, Dr. Fatteh said she also is getting referrals in her private practice for young and otherwise healthy people who aren’t bouncing back from the disease.

“We work with other colleagues — cardiologists, pulmonologists and other specialists — to help assess these patients and get them on treatment and recovery so that they can get back to pre-COVID states,” she said.

She described one patient in his early 40s who used to run six miles a day, but after COVID had extreme shortness of breath and fatigue. “It took about eight months to get him through regimens where he was back up to running two to three miles a day.”

Physicians have a special role to play in fighting to end the pandemic, but Dr. Fatteh said it may be time for healthcare professionals to alter their communications strategies.

“It’s imperative for us as a society to get vaccinated, to wear our masks to limit the spread, to help us get people well and get our economy back on track,” she said. “I think it just makes us stronger as physicians to say science matters. And we need to be vocal about it and we need to keep educating (but) we need to change our message sometimes.”

Dr. Fatteh urges physicians to consider leadership training to hone those communications skills, as well as others. “It’s an investment in yourself. It’s an investment in your development. And I think it’s well worth it,” she said.