Student Spotlight: Shadi Mehrabi

If Shadi Mehrabi (’21) could describe her career trajectory in one word, it would be “serendipitous.” Before attending medical school at CCLCM, Shadi was an engineering student at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. At a glance, her decision to pursue otolaryngology (head and neck surgery) may seem random, but in hindsight, she says, it makes perfect sense.

“I really think surgeons are, in their essence, very practical engineers. At the operating table, they are constantly solving physics problems in their head,” says Shadi.

Shadi’s decision to attend medical school was rooted in a desire to connect with others. During her undergraduate studies, she was drawn to community service initiatives that allowed her to work with people of all backgrounds. Her father, who is a physician, also inspired her to apply to medical school.

Five years later, Shadi’s life has come full circle. In April, she matched at the University of Michigan, in her hometown of Ann Arbor, for a residency in otolaryngology. While the past year has held many uncertainties amid the pandemic, she feels relieved to know that she’s returning home for the next stage of training.

“When my program director called, it almost felt unreal,” she says. “This has been a very specific dream I’ve been working towards for a while. It’s comforting to know that I’ll have a major cornerstone of my support system nearby.”

Shadi’s passion for head and neck surgery unfolded during her clinical rotations at Cleveland Clinic. She recalls watching a neck dissection and realizing how intricate this aspect of surgery can be. “The neck is the highway between your head and the rest of your body. Everything important goes through there,” Shadi notes.

During her fourth year, Shadi carried this enthusiasm with her when she traveled to the University of Pennsylvania upon receiving a Sarnoff Cardiovascular Research Foundation Fellowship. Through this program, she was able to conduct unique heart disease-related research, finding correlations between genes that cause both hearing loss and cardiomyopathy.

Outside of her research pursuits, Shadi immerses herself in the storytelling aspects of medicine: reading medical humanities journals, writing about her experiences and in the past helping to organize Story Slam, an annual tradition that showcases the narrative talent of local medical students. In 2017, she co-founded the Women in Medicine Medical Student Group with the intention of providing a collaborative, inclusive platform for all members.

On an ideal day off, Shadi sees herself spending time laughing with family and friends, making art and exploring nature. Most of her free time is filled with spontaneous creative pursuits, from baking to crafting unique visual art, all of which she posts on her Instagram: @shadi.makes.things!

Shadi’s biggest piece of advice to incoming medical students is to “stay open-minded and trust your gut.” As she approaches graduation, she is thankful for her mentors throughout medical school. Inspired by the late Toni Morrison, she lives by the author’s quote: “If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else.”