Dr. Nelida Sjak-Shie was motivated toward a career in medicine partially from a strong bond she developed with her own pediatrician through a sickly childhood. Now, as she treats patients who often are facing a frightening cancer diagnosis and treatment plan, she uses a compassionate approach to building similar doctor/patient bonds.
“I became a physician because it's a profession where I can make a huge difference one individual at a time,” Dr. Sjak-Shie says.
Certainly, some of Dr. Sjak-Shie’s patients are facing life and death decisions, and many physicians wouldn’t be drawn to that kind of practice. But she says she enjoys her work because she sees victories everyday.
“In oncology, you learn what is really important in life, and it’s a privilege to be with patients during this difficult time,” she says. “I know my patients often come to me with fear, and I try to help them channel that fear, motivating them to stay strong.”
Dr. Sjak-Shie received her M.D. from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Mo., and completed her residency at UCLA. Previously, she was an oncologist with Women’s Oncology Center in St. Louis, where she also served as the medical director for VNA Hospice Care. In addition to being a medical doctor, Sjak-Shie also holds a PhD from the University of Florida in pharmacology and therapeutics.
She relocated to Fort Smith in 2012 with her husband, Dr. Stephen Taylor – a Mercy critical care physician – because the couple has similar goals for their practices and Mercy in Fort Smith offered the opportunities to achieve those goals.
“I want to focus on patient care. I’m happy to be with Mercy because I’m given the freedom to provide patients with the best care possible without an overriding concern about the bottom line,” she says. “I also like helping to fill the need for oncology/hematology in this community – there is an opportunity for me to make a big difference here.”
Dr. Sjak-Shie also was attracted to Fort Smith because of the “highly motivated” team of professionals with whom she will be working, including radiation and interventional oncologists, a GI specialist, pathologists, neurosurgeons, cardiovascular specialists and many oncology-certified nurses.
“Oncology is a field exploding with new information, new tools and new interventions available to our patients, and I have access to all of that here.”
Unfortunately, there are times when the battle with cancer can’t be won, despite the best treatment course. At those times, Dr. Sjak-Shie takes on another role with equal passion –the role of helping her patients find an appropriate course for quality of life and death with dignity.
“I partner with my patients and their families to help them live the quality of life that they choose, giving them effective pain control and the ability to live their final days with dignity,” she says.
Dr. Sjak-Shie joins Dr. Tony Flippin in Mercy Clinic Oncology located at 7001 Rogers Ave., Suite 200. The phone number is 479-314-7490.