Dr. Nina Shapiro — She’s Just Like Us.
Although the pediatric head and neck surgeon can be found on cable network shows and has recently published a book, her primary goal is to give a basic understanding of good health practices in today’s information age.
It takes a lot to become a doctor- you must be motivated, committed, and ready to act at the drop of a pin — but for Dr. Nina Shapiro, her philanthropic ways come natural to her. The daughter of a consultation-liaison psychiatrist, Dr. Shapiro grew up in medicine, which was an inspiration for her and her brother to both eventually become doctors.
Looking towards the future
When Dr. Shapiro was growing up, medical practicing laws were much more relaxed and she was volunteering in different parts of the hospitals as a weekend gig and gaining serious work experience. As a young, aspiring med school student, she was still undecided as to what kind of doctor she wanted to become. She made a conscience effort to dip her toes in different fields of medicine to get a feel for what sort of career she would be willing to do for the rest of her life. As in any career, understanding the longevity of that line of work and its impacts — both positive and negative — were an important deciding factor for her. Dr. Shapiro purposefully looked at doctors who had been in their line of work for over twenty years to decide if they were still happy in their occupations after a few decades, and after some time working in the surgery department and fraternizing with other surgeons, she knew that this was the right fit for her.
Since becoming an accomplished pediatric head and neck surgeon, Dr. Shapiro has been the go-to doctor for the media, and has appeared on show like The Doctors, National Public Radio, and others. Despite her notoriety, she can’t deny that there have been times that have made her doubt her line of work.
“I’ve had some horrible tragedies happen that have questioned my choice — I’ll come home and say, ‘I can’t do this anymore, it’s too tragic, I can’t do it, Its sucking he life out of me.’ A lot of us in medicine for various reason will step back and ask why we’re doctors.”
Kids these days
In a Q&A with the Reynolds School of Journalism, Dr. Shapiro recalled an experience that was very telling of the WebMD climate in her own home — her son, a younger boy who had been playing an excessive amount of basketball earlier that day had realized he had a painful, cramping feeling in his left shoulder. To his mother’s surprise, he had googled “shoulder pain” and the internet confirmed that he was having a stroke.
And the parents aren’t that much better. Once when visiting her daughter’s school, she was stressing the importance of reading food labels, explaining “more is not better” in regard to the actual nutrition of a product, and usually denotes a marketing scheme. When comparing a “healthy” green juice to a candy bar, Dr. Shapiro explained to the kids that the candy bar actually contained less sugar, so if they were going to choose one to have for breakfast, they’d be better off choosing the less sugary option.
“The next day, I had parents calling me, asking why their kids were saying ‘The doctor told me to have candy for breakfast.’ “
…And they don’t fall far from the tree
Dr. Shapiro was constantly hearing accounts of her patients who were both self-diagnosing and who had begun to do their medical care outside of traditional health care. One specific event that was the catalyst for her to write Hype was a day that she will never forget. There was an infant who came into the hospital who was having a lot of breathing problems.
The doctors urged the parents to have an x-ray examination done to see what was happening in his lungs, but the parents were reluctant to do the exam, in fear of exposing the small child to radiation affiliated with them. After some time and serious deliberation, the x-ray examination was done and showed that there was a nut lodged in his breathing cavity, and one of his lungs was rendered useless because of it.
They soon were able to operate on the baby, saving his life, but Dr. Shapiro’s frustration with this type of parent that had the intention of sparing their child from any outside harm had actually put the child at more risk and in a life threating situation.
Hype was her calling
Living in Los Angeles, she is surrounded by the hub of Hollywood. Dr. Shapiro even claims that the reason behind writing her book “Hype, A Doctor’s Guide to Medical Myths, Exaggerated Claims, and Bad Advice — How to Tell What’s Real and What’s Not” came to her as a call for action, as she was being overloaded with information about how people were self-diagnosing and realized how detrimental this could be for her patients, her friends and family, and the world.
By writing the book, Dr. Shapiro has intended to inform the public about bad journalistic practices that happen in mass media by proving the relevance of skewed scientific studies that benefit the news organization directly. Buzzwords, clickbait, and social media — they’re just a few of the instigators to this growing problem. As a mother, a friend, and a doctor, she urges the public to browse the web with more deliberation when looking for health answers on the internet. If you’re googling a symptom, she says the best thing is to “Start basic” and not assume the worst.
Dr. Shapiro’s intention with the book Hype is to encourage the public to be more informed about the health care choices they’re making and having a more educated stance on the health climate in general. In writing this book, she knows that it’s the diet and health fad books that are flying off the shelves, and that’s not her intention. As a mother, doctor and overall provider, Dr. Shapiro wants to use her knowledge and experience to have the best impact on the community around her.