Shaila Siraj, M.D., came to the United States at age 2, but even in her early years growing up, she found herself comfortable with helping her family navigate the health care system.
Part of a family from Bangladesh, Siraj had the adaptability of youth and often found herself advising parents and extended family on their own health care concerns. Now a pediatric hospitalist, she takes care of hospitalized children at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida. She also serves as an associate program director for the University of South Florida Pediatrics Residency Program. She spoke recently about her background and Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.
Why did you choose a career in medicine?
Medicine felt like it was a calling all my life. I was a science nerd who loved caring for others and wanted to give back to my community. As I grew up, I started actualizing a career in medicine after seeing my close family and friends struggle to navigate a very confusing health care system.
Tell us about your job.
As a pediatric hospitalist, I take care of a variety of illnesses that bring children to the hospital. Some may need intravenous antibiotics for a serious infection or oxygen because they have difficulty breathing. I can’t believe I’ve been in practice for almost 10 years, but I love the variety of children I see, from babies to young adults. The breadth of what we do keeps me engaged and loving my specialty.
The other hat I wear is working with the pediatric trainees from the University of South Florida. I am a graduate of the program and now serve as their associate program director at All Children’s. I love the teaching, mentorship, and leadership opportunities that this role has provided me over the years. The residents are such a fun bunch.
What’s your favorite thing about working at Johns Hopkins All Children’s?
I love my patients and they make my work fulfilling. But I must also add that I work with the very best team. My colleagues are the most fantastic pediatricians I've ever met, and I believe our group is very special. I would trust them to take care of my own children.
What’s something most people might not know about you?
I write poetry and play tennis!
Who is an Asian American or Pacific Islander you admire, and people should learn more about?
Rabindranath Tagore, a Bengali poet. He is such an important person in Bengali history. He was the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. His words have comforted me at times when I felt especially lonely as an immigrant growing up in the States. He writes about love, resilience, and the beauty of one’s motherland.