Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Eri Shinozaki, MD, clinical assistant professor in General Internal Medicine and hospitalist, had never associated fear with her workplace, but returning to work summoned a new level of anxiety. Additionally, Shinozaki, who already juggled duties as a physician, mother, and wife, had to add homeschool teacher to these daily tasks. Now, however, the stress and fear she felt has mostly dissipated; thanks to the support her colleagues have provided for the past five months.
“Surprisingly, my fear was relieved as I went back to work,” Shinozaki said. “I found my colleagues and the leadership in the hospitalist group devoting themselves on the front line and working bravely through this. It was just encouraging and inspiring. Their positive attitudes and acquired optimism have made me feel stronger, and not alone. I feel very fortunate that I belong to this group of people.”
At home, although the pandemic has forced her children to stay at home instead of going to school or playing with their friends, her family has spent more time biking, running, cooking, and making music together.
Shinozaki currently works in the Presurgical Evaluation Clinic (PEC), which opened in January 2020. Previously two separate clinics, the Surgical Co-Management Clinic and the Anesthesia Presurgical Evaluation Clinic, the new PEC reviews the patient’s medical conditions and assesses their risk for complications from the surgeries. The two clinics now coordinate care with several other services including the primary surgery teams, other consulting teams, primary care providers, local hospitals, and more.
“As are all the other areas of medicine, an interdisciplinary approach with close communication is the key to perioperative medicine,” Shinozaki said. “In terms of preoperative care, I believe having anesthesia and internal medicine work closely together is very helpful for the care of the patients.”
In the PEC, she works with her friend and colleague Mariko Hagiwara, MD, clinical assistant professor in General Internal Medicine. Hagiwara and Shinozaki attended the same medical school and completed the same residency program together at the University of South Dakota.
“I have known her over half my life and I have never seen a day that she is not smiling, even on those hardest days,” Hagiwara said. “She is always thinking about her patients and making sure they receive the best care possible, and if I were a patient would love to have her as my doctor.”
The PEC also serves as the General Internal Medicine inpatient consulting team, which is a team of physicians and healthcare workers who work both inpatient and outpatient services. Bradley Manning, MD, Medical Director and clinical assistant professor in General Internal Medicine, works closely with Shinozaki.
“Eri is hard-working, a very optimistic and positive colleague,” Manning said. “And whenever help is needed in the division, Eri is one of the first to volunteer.”
Another physician in the PEC, Ethan Kuperman, MD, director of the PEC and clinical associate professor in General Internal Medicine, says Shinozaki revitalized the curriculum of the Surgical Co-Management Services and authored several presentations on perioperative medicine.
“She is always interested in improving not just her own practice, but the practices of everyone within our group,” Kuperman said. “I am grateful for the hard work she has performed on surgical co-management and her contributions to my own knowledge base.”
Before the two clinics joined to create the PEC, Shinozaki just worked in Surgical Co-Management. Now she treats patients before and after their operations, which has helped her understand and provide a higher value of perioperative care.
“I appreciate the support from the department to help me grow,” Shinozaki said. “They have given me the opportunities to be a member of and attend the annual conferences of the Society of Perioperative Assessment and Quality Improvement. The people who have passion in this area were encouraging and I have learned a lot. The more I learn, I realize that there is more and more we could do to improve the quality of perioperative care as an internist.”
As a child in Yamanashi, Japan, Shinozaki says that she liked to run along the mountains with friends, weaving her way through miles of vineyards and orchards. “In the spring, when the peach trees blossomed, the mountains turned a vivid pink, and I would dance under the trees with my friends.” Just a few miles down the road, Shinozaki’s father, grandfather, and uncle worked at the town’s hospital. Naturally, a young Shinozaki contemplated becoming a doctor herself, and she would later find this destiny in Yamanashi’s sister state, Iowa.
Before that, though, she took a short detour, majoring in sociology at the University of Tokyo. She spent four years in Tokyo, exploring the city and meeting classmates who would go on to explore various fields from government to academics to business. However, after graduation, she became unsure about her future.
“I ran into the fundamental questions; ‘how could I make myself most helpful?’ and ‘what could I be good at?’” Shinozaki said. “That was when the idea of becoming a doctor came back to me. I cannot be too thankful for my parents’ full support when I pursued a medical career after graduation.”
Following her graduation from Yamanashi Medical School, she married Gen Shinozaki, MD, associate professor of Psychiatry and Neurosurgery, and moved to Minnesota, where she studied for the United States Medical Licensing Examination and worked as a research trainee. Shinozaki completed a residency at the University of South Dakota, and the Shinozakis moved to the University of Iowa, an ideal institution for Gen’s research.
“I am not a big fan of moving, but it did not take me long before I liked this town as much,” Shinozaki said. “The warm welcome and the collegial atmosphere of UIHC made my adjustment easier.”
Shinozaki continues to feel welcomed by the UI Health Care community, especially during the pandemic.
“We are in this together. And we will get over this together some day,” Shinozaki said. “At that time, I want to take my children to my hometown to show them the beautiful mountains.”