Q and A with Dr. Shazad Wada
For those who suffer from chronic pain syndromes, every day is a battle. Thankfully, technology is starting to get the better of many of these issues. Clinics such as the Pain and Spine Center at North Fulton Hospital have been able to provide much needed relief to patients who may have lost hope of ever returning to a normal life.
Physicians such as Dr. Shazad Wada are able to utilize a wealth of new treatments and technologies, as well as their finely tuned skills, to ease chronic pain in the North Fulton community and beyond. Dr. Wada has improved the quality of life for countless patients, and will continue to do so as he grows and raises his own family in North Fulton.
Q Where are you from? Where did you go to school?
ANSWER: I was born and raised in Chicago. My family drove through Atlanta on the way to Orlando, to Disney World and stopped here in North Fulton. My father never wanted to leave, so we moved. I ended up going to Chattahoochee High School, then undergrad at Emory and med school at Medical College of Georgia in Augusta. Looking to get away from Augusta, I did my surgical internship at the University of Hawaii. While there, I learned that my name means “peaceful rice patty” in Japanese. Apparently it’s very philosophical. I went to New York for my residency and fellowship in anesthesiology and pain management.
Q When did you first decide to go into medicine?
ANSWER: I guess it was by accident. I fell into it by taking all of the pre-med courses, took the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) exam and applied. Didn’t think I’d get in, but I did. A lot of my friends were doing it. It seemed like a good career path. I didn’t care for medicine at first, I didn’t think it was a fit for me. But then I did a rotation out of Northwestern where I fell in with one of the founders of our field, Dr. Honorio Benzon. He forced my hand. He said he’d be angry with me if I didn’t go into pain management. So I listened.
Q Why did you decide to specialize in pain management?
ANSWER: I enjoy the field because it’s very gratifying. It’s really amazing that you get to see a patient come in in pain and leave a different person. There is also a growing need for what we do. Chronic pain is one of those things that practitioners don’t want to highlight, but it plays such a huge role in being functional on a daily basis. Simple things that we take for granted can be so difficult or impossible for these patients. I saw myself being able to do something for the community. I get to do it in the community I grew up in, which is a dream.
Q Can you give us a little background on the Pain and Spine Center at North Fulton Hospital?
ANSWER: This center has so much potential. I’ve been all over the country, to all the major institutes, and there is no other clinic like ours. I have all the best tools for treating pain. And we don’t have as much red tape because the hospital likes to realize our potential and they see the need. Our ability to treat people speaks for itself. The current center is about 3.5 years old; we broke ground in 2011. Before this was an older pain clinic that was more typical, without all the bells and whistles they have now. They drew me here partly with the promise of this clinic. We’ve already seemed to outgrow it, we may even need a bigger facility soon.
Q How did you end up here? What brought you to this hospital?
ANSWER: When I began looking for work, I got in touch with the father of one of my colleagues, who is a partner here at North Fulton Hospital. They needed a new guy and the hospital was 20 minutes away from my family, so it was a done deal.
Q What are some of the most common ailments treated here?
ANSWER: Spinal arthritis is a big one; lumbar radiculitis; herniated disks; spinal stenosis; compression fractures; arthritic pain due to shoulders, hips, and knees; and other chronic pain syndromes.
Q Can you share one of the most unusual cases you’ve had?
ANSWER: Sometimes doctors are encouraged to treat patients in a cookie cutter fashion, but each patient is specialized, each patient is important. One young lady came to us with a chronic pain in her abdomen secondary to her inability to digest food. She could not eat, and was losing weight and health due to her inability to absorb nutrients. Part of her treatment included removing her colon and being put on TPN (IV nutrition) until a solution could be found. TPN therapy is toxic to the liver over time and cannot be sustained. What stood out about her was that we treated her with a celiac plexus block. This injection is used to treat chronic, abdominal pain with one side effect being short-term diarrhea. We used this side effect to jump start her digestive process. It’s interesting to me that we used a side effect as a treatment. It helped her to ease her pain, but more than that, it helped her to eat and to live. It was a whole different level of gratification.
Q What do you like to do outside of work?
ANSWER: I have twins, 4 years old, and all my free time is spent with them. My wife is pregnant again, so we are very busy. We enjoy traveling whenever we can. I like playing tennis and I enjoyed driving my sports car until I traded it in for a minivan. I hate to admit it, but the swaggerwagon is great!
Q What, in your opinion, is the most important trait a physician in pain management can have?
ANSWER: I think the most important trait a pain physician can have is to listen to their patient. Most of our patients have gone to many other doctors before coming to us, they are frustrated and quite often under appreciated. I find that lending an ear helps me empathize with my patients, bond with them, and ultimately optimize their treatment plan. m