Thursday, July 30, 2015

Commencement Close-Up: Amita Shah literally operates with a new perspective

Amita Shah

Amita Shah

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(Dec. 17, 2010)--Talk about busy...

Early on Tuesday, June 1, Amita Shah, already a medical doctor, dropped off her doctoral thesis at the UTSA Department of Biomedical Engineering. Later that evening, she gave birth to her first child, a son. A week later, she defended her dissertation.

"I can't believe I did that," she recalled incredulously.

But she did, and at 1 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 18, she will cross the commencement stage to receive her doctoral degree in biomedical engineering. The occasion marks the end of a 10-year journey.

As an undergraduate at Trinity University, Shah was torn between medical school and graduate school. She wanted to become a surgeon, but biomedical engineering intrigued her, and she enjoyed her undergraduate research experience. Ultimately, she decided to attend medical school. In 2005, she graduated and began a surgical residency.

But, the prospect of graduate school still nagged her.

"As a surgical resident, I could see how much we really needed the techniques and products you can develop using tissue engineering methods," she said.

As Shah considered a doctoral program, Health Science Center Professor Mauli Agrawal joined the UTSA Department of Biomedical Engineering and eventually became dean of the UTSA College of Engineering. When UTSA established its joint doctoral degree program with the Health Science Center, she knew the time was ripe.

While a second-year surgical resident, Shah studied for the GRE, took the exam and submitted applications to graduate schools.

"I knew I wanted to attend UTSA, because I wanted to work with Dean Agrawal and Dr. [Anson] Ong," Shah recalled. Ong is the chair of the UTSA Department of Biomedical Engineering and director of the UTSA/UTHSCSA Joint Graduate Degree Program in Biomedical Engineering.

"I'd met them at the Health Science Center. I also knew the UTSA Department of Biomedical Engineering had a great relationship with the Health Science Center and the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research," Shah added.

UTSA accepted Shah, and she matriculated in fall 2007. Immediately, she began to conduct tissue engineering research for the Department of Defense in Dean Agrawal's laboratory. She studied the role of endothelial cells and osteoblasts in improving the growth of blood vessels and bone tissue in a synthetic bone scaffold. Her findings will contribute to better treatments for soldiers who sustain large, segmental bone injuries as a result of rocket-propelled grenades or IEDs. Current treatments often result in amputation, she says.

On July 1, 2010, Shah returned to the operating room, resuming the sleepless life of a surgical resident. However, she now brings a new perspective.

"Now, when I'm doing surgery, it's more 'how can we make it better?' than just 'how can we do it?'" she said. "The doctoral program taught me to look at things critically including journal articles. I'm able to read them better and pull out more information than before. And, my practice of medicine is more evidence-based than it was before."

Ideally, Shah envisions a career where she can combine her surgical skills with her passion for biomedical engineering. She is eager to create new devices that she can use to improve the lives of her patients.

Her mentor, Mauli Agrawal, has no doubt she will accomplish her goals.

"Dr. Shah is a perfect example of the brilliant young minds who will lead us into the future," he said. "She is a young, critical thinker who is well-educated and driven. I can't wait to see what the future holds for her."

 

 

Did You Know?

Sometimes you have to see the little picture

UTSA researchers are exploring matter at the atomic level with Helenita. It's one of the most powerful microscopes in the world, with the ability to operate near the theoretical limit of resolution. At 9 feet, 2 inches tall and weighing more than two tons, Helenita can dissect almost anything. With Helenita's resolution, researchers can study particles atom by atom to see how they behave.

That's critical in developing nanotechnology that will help diagnosis early-stage breast cancer or make helmets that are uber strong. Moreover, the detail that Helenita provides will allow nanotechnology researchers to create new therapies and treatments to fight a wide range of human diseases.

Did you know? Helenita can magnify a sample 20 million times its size, which would make a strand of human hair the size of San Antonio.

Read More »
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July 30, 5 - 7 p.m.

Networking and happy hour with AIA San Antonio's Women in Architecture

Join AIA San Antonio’s Women in Architecture group for their networking and happy hour event, where all design professionals are welcome.
Liberty Bar, 1111 S. Alamo St.

Aug. 1, 9 p.m.

"Inside Peace" documentary screening

This documentary, presented by the San Antonio Film Festival, documents the experience of re-entry after incarceration. The film features Michael Gilbert, associate professor in the department of criminal justice and director of the Office of Community and Restorative Justice program at UTSA.
Tobin Center for the Performing Arts, 100 Auditorium Circle

Aug. 4, 6 - 8 p.m.

Free Teacher Tuesday: Los Tejanos Workshop

Discover resources and strategies for teaching Tejano history and culture and get a special educator's tour of the new long-term exhibit, Los Tejanos.
Institute of Texan Cultures, 801 E. César E. Chávez Blvd.

Aug. 9, 12 - 5 p.m.

Vaquerocation 2015

This cowboy-themed programming, offered in conjunction with Our Kids Magazine's Kidcation Week, gives families the opportunity to visit with cowboy docents, enjoy readings and visit activity tables.
Institute of Texan Cultures, 801 E. Cesar E. Chavez Blvd.

Aug. 22, 6 p.m.

UTSA Alumni Gala

The UTSA Alumni Association hosts this annual gala honoring the Alumna of the Year, Alumnus of the Year and the Alumnus of the Year Lifetime Achievement award winners.
Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort & Spa, 9800 Hyatt Resort Dr.


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