When Jina Shah traveled to India in her youth, she was struck by the poverty she saw. She wanted to help people in less privileged areas of the world, and she thought that working in the field of international public health might be the way.
She was raised as a vegetarian, under the principles of the Jain religion, which emphasizes the importance of nonviolence. And this value became a guiding principle in her career.
Dr. Shah received her medical degree from State University of New York Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, N.Y., and a master’s of public health from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Throughout her schooling, Dr. Shah was only asked to participate in an animal lab once—a neuroscience activity using a frog nerve in which she declined to participate.
Early in her career, it was PCRM’s materials that got Dr. Shah thinking about the benefits of epidemiological studies and human population studies. “These studies don’t involve harm to animals and provide a lot of answers,” Dr. Shah said.
Board-certified in general preventive medicine as well as family medicine, Dr. Shah has focused her clinical and public health work on prevention. Dr. Shah spent many years at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, working on international health issues. She now works at a pharmaceutical company, conducting human clinical trials on new vaccines, and she also works part time as a clinical instructor at a family medicine residency at the University of California, San Francisco, and in urgent care at Kaiser Permanente.
Dr. Shah, who has been a vegan ever since she learned about the way animals in the dairy industry are treated, also talks with patients about the health benefits of plant-based diets whenever she can. “When patients are ill and in the doctor’s office, it’s a teachable moment,” Dr. Shah said.
Dr. Shah has helped PCRM make strides toward reforming federal nutrition policies by setting up meetings with the offices of California Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein. She and several other doctors passed along PCRM’s message on the need to end federal subsidies for high-fat, high-cholesterol foods.