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Board Spotlight: Dr. Yogesh Shah

October 24, 2011

This month, Board Spotlights is featuring Dr. Yogesh Shah. If you have additional or follow-up questions, please leave them in the comments!

Dr. Yogesh Shah has been involved welcoming participants with IRIS for a number of years, and joined the board of directors in 2010. Known for his expertise in medical care and geriatrics, Dr. Shah brings to Des Moines University and IRIS a passion for improving the health of people around the world. Dr. Shah is appointed temporary advisor to WHO for maternal health and a member of WHO lead group PREBIC (Preterm Birth International Collaborative) Dr. Shah also led the creation of the Heartland Global Health Consortium, a collaborative of eight Iowa educational institutions that seeks to foster international learning opportunities for students. Triple-board-certified in family medicine, geriatrics and hospice and palliative care, Dr. Shah was named in 2006 DMU’s associate dean for global health, a new position created to establish and increase international rotation opportunities, medical service sites and other global health experiences that DMU students increasingly seek. He’s done just that: Since 2007, more than 300 DMU students in all academic programs have participated in global health service trips,  providing care for under-served people in 26 countries.

Last year, Dr. Shah, who was born in Mumbai, India, received the Passport to Prosperity Award, which honors individuals who immigrated to Iowa and have contributed significantly to the community.

Tell us a little about your background. 

I grew up in Mumbai, India where I went to medical school. I came to Iowa in 1994, and have been the Associate Dean of Global Health since 2006.

How did you become involved with international programs? 

Once I arrived in Iowa, I was asked to travel with Iowa Sister States group to explore countries such as Japan and China. I have also developed Des Moines University’s global health department, which gives students an opportunity to study medicine internationally.  Students have the option of traveling to countries such as Guatemala, Honduras and several countries in Africa and Asia to complete clinical rotations.

What has been your most enriching travel experience, personally or professionally? 

I would say my one night spent in a Tanzanian Village was my most enriching travel experience. I went with a group to develop end-of-life courses for doctors and nurses. We taught them how to take care of terminally ill patients suffering from diseases such as HIV and AIDS, but I also spent much of my time alone observing the village. It was eye-opening for me to see how people live in conditions without water or electricity, but still remain so happy and content.

Dr. Shah and his family in front of the Taj Mahal in Agra, India

How many countries/continents have you visited?

I’ve been to five different continents, and about 25 different countries. I have visited many countries in Central America, as well as Africa, Europe, Asia and Australia.

Tell us a little about what prompted you to become engaged with IRIS.

I like the work done by IRIS, especially the fact that they involve youth from so many developing countries. It is exciting for me to see this. If there are any future significant changes globally, they will come from our youth. If the world is going to be headed in a new direction, it will be lead by our children. It’s important to engage them and give them opportunities to visit other countries and experience other cultures. I think IRIS supports that, and gives them an opportunity for change. That is one among many things that I like about IRIS.

What is an international issue that is particularly important to you? 

Maternal and newborn health is important to me. A lot of women die giving birth simply because they are not taken care of. This is something that we work on at Des Moines University.

Why do you feel that it is important to “connect Iowans to communities worldwide,” as IRIS’s mission states? 

If we go about other cultures in a positive way, it will make up better individuals. Global villages and small towns in Iowa all need to meet people from all over the world. The better we go about other people culturally, the less fear there will be of the unkown.

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