2021 Top Doctor: Sheetal Chhaya, D.O.

Editorial StaffMay 5, 2021
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Photography by Steve Craft
Photography by Steve Craft

Rheumatology

Med School/Year Graduated: University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey/1999

Years in Practice: 16

Do you think autoimmune disorders – factors in many rheumatic conditions – are on the rise in the U.S.?

I do. We are seeing increases in the presence of biomarkers of autoimmune disease in the population, especially among the younger adults and males, which has been less common in the past. The reasons are unclear but may suggest more autoimmune disease diagnoses in the future.

How can an anti-inflammatory diet help those with arthritis?

The thought is that a diet high in inflammatory components such as high levels of fats, cholesterol and sugar may promote autoimmune disease by increasing obesity and metabolic syndrome and lead to chronic inflammation. This can impact immune cells and their role in autoimmune disease. An anti-inflammatory diet may help alleviate the inflammation that can lead to damage to body tissue and possibly autoimmunity.

How has your field evolved during your practice?

We have started to think “outside the joint.” The focus has shifted to target tissue damage that occurs in the entire body in the presence of autoimmune disease. This has led to collaborative research between rheumatology and different fields of medicine and the use of therapies that were traditionally used in other systemic diseases.

Can some rheumatic conditions be stress-related?

There is definitely a thought that not only can stress exacerbate a preexisting rheumatic disease and contribute to a flare-up, but that it may also precede the emergence of a new autoimmune disease – more so in those who may be vulnerable to developing one.

What is the best depiction of your field you’ve seen in TV or film?

That’s a great question! Rheumatologists are not the most common specialists you see on a fast-paced trauma ER show, but our diseases do have a strong presence in some of the medical mystery shows like House.

What was the last book you read?

The last book I read was a re-read of Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies. Next up is either The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett or Barack Obama’s A Promised Land.

What are you watching on streaming TV these days?

The Crown. Yeah, I’m a bit delayed in joining the rest of the world, but better late than never – it’s fantastic! I love This Is Us, anything on the Food Network – and I admit, I still watch Grey’s Anatomy and, once in a while, the Real Housewives of anywhere for a little guilty mindless escape!

“If I wasn’t a doctor, I’d be…”

A performer of some kind, an actor, a dancer. I have always loved the stage or even being behind
a microphone.

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