Meet Tanvi S. Sharma, MD, MPH, co-director of Infectious Diseases for the Pediatric Transplant Center at Boston Children’s Hospital.
Why did you choose to specialize in infectious diseases?
I did all of my training at the University of Miami School of Medicine. During my pediatric residency, I saw many patients at Jackson Memorial Medical Center who acquired HIV prenatally from their mothers. So, my interest in infectious diseases began with working with that population of patients, and I did a pediatric infectious disease fellowship in Miami with a focus on HIV.
How did you end up at Boston Children’s?
I was a tag-a-long. My husband was hired as program director of the combined Internal Medicine-Pediatrics Residency Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Boston Children’s Hospital. He was recruited into that position 10 years ago.
I immediately started working in immunocompromised infectious disease (ID) services. I was also involved with the pediatric ID Fellowship Program and shortly thereafter became the director of that program.
Since the pediatric HIV-infected population has fortunately diminished quite significantly, I was able to apply my interest in immunocompromising conditions and infections to the transplant population.
What is your role within the Pediatric Transplant Center?
Infection is probably one of the most common causes of poor outcomes in transplant recipients, so we are an integral part of the care equation — keeping patients healthy post-transplant and getting them to a point where they can really live healthfully.
I work to prevent infections in patients whose immune systems are going to become immunosuppressed. Before transplant, I meet with the patients and their families to try to put together a risk assessment of all the different potential infectious risks they might have. In addition, we perform a number of screening tests. This provides a picture of the infectious risks a person may have before transplant and we try to mitigate those risks to reduce the chance of later infections and improve outcomes.
Once patients are transplanted, we evaluate whether there are any infectious concerns related to the donor. Then, we follow the patients on an ongoing basis to monitor the potential development of infections and intervene as needed. There’s a lot of counseling in the post-transplant period to teach patients about the kinds of foods and environmental exposures they need to avoid for safer living. Later on, if they are doing well, we don’t follow them quite as closely as their transplant team does, but we are always there in the background.
Dr. Sharma and her husband Dr. Niraj Sharma
What do you love most about your job?
I love the patients. They are incredible. They all have such amazing stories. Despite everything they have gone through and are going through, they are so positive. Because we ask so many questions, we really get their life stories in the process. We learn about where they’re from, what they’re doing, about their families and their disease process.
Another thing I love about my job is the team mentality. The transplant team has an amazing, complementary team model. We are so much more effective because of this collaborative model, and the patients benefit from it.
If you weren’t a doctor, what would you want to be?
If I weren’t a doctor, I would be a professional chef. I absolutely love to cook. It started when my husband and I had our first child. Since it was too difficult to go out on a Saturday night, and she was a phenomenal sleeper, we would put her to bed, open up a nice bottle of wine, cook something that we wanted to try, and sit down, have dinner and watch a movie. That was our Saturday-night date, and it stuck.
Now our two daughters, who are 12 and 8, have gotten into cooking, too. They do Sunday-night dinner for the family; they pick out a recipe, and we all cook and eat together.
Dr. Sharma’s daughters: From left, Amari and Aesha
When you were little, what did you dream of being when you grew up?
I always knew I wanted to be a pediatrician. I loved working with kids from the time I was little, and I really liked science and biology, so I was certain from a very early age. I didn’t necessarily understand what being a pediatrician meant, but I knew it was a “kid doctor.” I did what I set out to do.