Who is Dr. Nirav Shah and why is he Idealized and Idolized?

By: Ronda Snyder

This article contains political and other commentary which reflects the author’s opinions

BACKGROUND:

The Maine CDC director, Dr. Nirav Shah, was the Chief Economist of the Ministry of Health of Cambodia. Dr. Shah received a BS in Biology and Psychology from the University of Louisville along with a JD and MD in Medicine, both from the University of Chicago. Dr. Shah received a fellowship from the Paul & Daisy Soros Foundation to assist with his medical education. Dr. Shah worked as Director of the Illinois Department of Health where he was embroiled in controversy over his mishandling of an outbreak of Legionnaires Disease at Veteran’s Home. Now, after a “nationwide” search, Dr. Shah is the Director of the Maine CDC.

An article in The Maine Monitor by Samantha Hogan (June7, 2019) states:

“Janet Mills states: “The Department conducted an exhaustive, national search, and based on Dr. Shah’s credentials, I believe Commissioner Lambrew has selected a superbly qualified individual to lead the Maine CDC.”

But recent findings by Pine Tree Watch paint his four-year tenure there in a far different light:

  • Shah was severely criticized for his handling of repeated fatal outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease – a form of pneumonia caused by a waterborne bacteria – at the state-run Illinois Veterans Home from 2015 to 2018. In all, 13 people died; 74 residents, volunteers and staff were sickened; and more were suspected of having contracted a non-fatal variation of the bacterial infection.
  • The criticism started when Shah did not notify families or the public about the initial outbreak in 2015 for six days, despite suspecting an epidemic of Legionnaires’ was beginning at the veterans home. That outbreak sickened more than 56 people and contributed to the death of 12 veterans that year.
  • The state of Illinois and the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs are being sued by 12 families of the veterans who died from complications of Legionnaires’. None of the families has settled with the state.
  • A grand jury in Illinois subpoenaed hundreds of records from Shah’s department related to its handling and response to the outbreaks.

Illinois lawmakers and U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, both Illinois Democrats, repeatedly called for Shah to resign after a botched water-system repair at the veterans home came to light, information was withheld from the public, and the home wasn’t issued a safety violation citation.”

IDEALIZATION AND IDOLIZATION:

Despite being embroiled in a 3 year turmoil as Director of Illinois Department Health, here in Maine Dr. Shah enjoys an almost rock star status with a Facebook fan page of more than 37,000 adoring fans called “Fans of Dr. Nirav Shah.” Wilbur’s of Maine located in Freeport and Brunswick, Maine created a “Shah Bar” to celebrate Dr. Shah. Gail Seabury thinks people are jealous that she got a Shah Bar for Christmas.

Sue Malavich Duval tells Shah’s fans that Shah Bars made great stocker stuffers and Maureen Flaherty’s Christmas was a little sweeter thanks to her niece and Dr. Shah.

Shah Bars weren’t the only Shah items displayed at Christmas. Dr. Shah Christmas ornaments were on full display in the Shah Fan page such as this handmade beauty lovingly crafted by Amy Genest.

The idealization and idolization of some Shah Fan page members made me ponder this phenomenon. For example, Mary Anne Royal doesn’t let anyone get between her and Dr. Shah’s live updates. Similarly, Robert Sylvain admits that listening to Dr. Shah brings tears to his eyes and doesn’t understand the emotion. Public comments like these led me to contact a psychologist to discuss what would prompt people to idealize and idolize a Maine CDC director during a pandemic.

According to the psychologist with whom I spoke to get general background (this is not a diagnosis of the above comments but rather a general discussion), in a crisis, people tend to look for someone in a position of authority to reassure them and in which to place their trust. If there is a person, like Dr. Shah, who people believe is trustworthy then they are happy to hear the information provided. Additionally, the information provided MUST be true and accurate because they have placed their trust in this person of authority. There can be no doubt about the person in authority’s opinion because the person of authority has a calming presence to those who believe in him (or her).

According to an article in Psychology Today entitled “God Syndrome” Nassir Ghaemi M.D., M.P.H. writes:

We doctors would not mind being gods, if it were possible, I suppose; and patients would accept our divinity if it meant their restoration to health. But it does not work that way. Psychoanalysts have a concept for all this: they call it “transference.” The idea is that patients transfer feelings, from somewhere other than the real doctor-patient relationship, to their doctors. The doctor is overvalued, and becomes a god, or demeaned, and viewed as lower than swine. Often, the one precedes the other. Neither is true.

PRESENT DAY:

Does Dr. Shah deserve this idealization and idolization? One has to wonder how many Fans of Dr. Nirav Shah know about his background and controversy in handling the Legionnaire’s outbreak in Illinois. Even if the Fans of Dr. Nirav Shah do not know about his background, let’s take a look at how this present outbreak handled by Dr. Shah (and by Governor Janet Mills) is unfolding. Set forth below is a table of deaths (from or with COVID) in the last 60 days. When reviewing this data, please keep in mind that Governor Mills issued an Executive Order on November 5, 2020 requiring that face masks be worn in all public settings. On December 11, 2020, Governor Mills issued an Executive Order removing all exemptions to mask wearing (you can read about the unintended consequences of December 11 EO in my article entitled “Is Mills Governing from a Place of Fear?” by clicking here.

Age GroupDeaths as of 11/18/2020
(Total 170)
Deaths as of 12/18/2020
(Total 281)
Deaths as of Today (1/18/2021)
(Total 514)
<20000
20’s111
30’s111
40’s347
50’s51222
60’s142344
70’s5283135
80+94157304
TOTAL170281514

One can reasonably argue that history is repeating itself with Dr. Nirav Shah and he doesn’t deserve the idealization or idolization bestowed upon him. The veterans living at the Veterans Home in Illinois were not adequately protected from the Legionnaire’s outbreak. Similarly, it is quite clear from the above data that the elderly population in Maine is not being adequately protected during the COVID outbreak. From the onset of this outbreak through November 18 (eight entire months) there were 94 deaths in those 80 years of age and older. Within two months that number has more than TRIPLED to 304 deaths. I can hear the fans of Dr. Shah now “those numbers increased because of holiday get togethers and travel and people weren’t wearing masks.” The problem is that the majority of this population of people are living in nursing homes and assisted living facilities and the majority of Mainers ARE wearing masks in response to Mills’ Executive Orders. Even if some staff traveled and got together with family over the holidays, there still doesn’t appear to be adequate plans in place to protect the elderly in these communities. Protecting these communities is Dr. Shah’s (and Janet Mills’) responsibility and they are failing miserably.

While Shah and Mills are failing our elderly population, they are also failing the healthy citizens of Maine with draconian restrictions that cause more harm than good. As I mentioned in my December 18, 2020 article, “The unintended consequences of Janet Mills’ severe restrictions are many. People who have worked their entire lives to achieve the “American Dream” to own their own businesses have lost everything they’ve worked so hard to attain. Bankruptcies, overdoses, alcohol abuse, mental health crises, suicides, isolation, avoidance of critical health care, food insecurity, domestic abuse, child abuse, depression (in both adults AND children) and unemployment rates have all skyrocketed under Mills’ [and Shah’s] draconian measures.”

Thank you for reading. Please follow our Maine Journal News Facebook page for more content. As always, if you have a tip, concern or story idea, please email it to mainejournalnews@gmail.com.

6 thoughts on “Who is Dr. Nirav Shah and why is he Idealized and Idolized?”

  1. Spot on assessment of the failure that is Shaw.
    And those who are idolizing this incompetent failure lend credence that the draconian measures of our dictator Mills are increasing the levels of mental illness.

  2. How does 37,000 FB followers get a rockstar following status In a state with a population of over a million? This oped is riddled with contradictions of an uneducated uninformed opinion. Stick to the facts you might do better than your BS.

    1. John, we are sorry that an opposing opinion hurt your feelings. We see you went straight to the insults rather than a substantive response AND you misquoted the article. We are not surprised.

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