Siddharth Ashvin Shah

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Siddharth Ashvin Shah is an American physician, public health scientist and educator of South Asian origin. In the course of his work, Dr. Shah has blended disciplines involving preventive medicine, behavioral medicine, integrative medicine, humanitarian aid, East-West health systems, group psychology, trauma recovery and stress management research.


Shah’s primary work has been implementing public health strategies that help in dealing with disaster, terrorism, human misery and psychosocial trauma on local and global levels. He advocates education and prevention for the phenomenon of vicarious traumatization[1] (closely related to secondary traumatic stress) – which is a detrimental consequence that first responders, counselors and other caregivers experience as a result of interacting with traumatized individuals.[2] In line with preventing these undesirable consequences, Shah encourages resilience training, coping skills, transforming strategies and post-traumatic growth.

With his writings and advocacy on ethnomedical competence, Shah is also a figure in the global health movement to provide psychosocial treatments cross-culturally without eroding traditional, local capacity.

Medical philosophy[edit]

Vicarious traumatization, while not well known by the general public, is an empirically recognized occupational hazard for service providers. As a leader in the prevention of burnout, compassion fatigue, and vicarious traumatization, Dr. Shah speaks to a positive occupational health psychology for relief workers, health care providers, psychotherapists, journalists, government agencies, humanitarian aid agencies, non-profits and other non-governmental organizations – anyone that works on the front lines of human distress and suffering.

Dr. Shah provided a series of workshops for relief workers in the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks. He conducted similar programs for humanitarian aid workers and emergency responders after the 9/11 attacks in New York City, the 2002 Gujarat mass violence in India, the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami,[3] Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita, and the 2005 Earthquake in Kashmir. His trauma and resiliency support firm, Greenleaf Integrative Strategies, LLC is based in Arlington, Virginia, a suburb adjacent to Washington, DC.

In addition to offering healing strategies to crisis workers, Shah is a speaker and author on integrative medicine. Shah has written about ethnomedical competence, which is a supplement to [or critique of] cultural competence. He writes:

“Ethnomedical competence describes the capacity of individuals and organizations to discern, utilize, and preserve culturally embedded self-concepts and effective healing practices. Ethnomedically competent treatment modalities are pluralistic, mixing Western and non-Western treatments synergistically into best practices.” (Shah, 2007)

Synthesizing ethnomedical competence with his work on trauma, Shah has also written on integrative psychosocial resilience, in which he describes how cross-cultural, East-West therapies should be blended with standard treatments for lower side effects and greater benefits in the case of psychosocial difficulties.

Under the umbrella of teaching resilience strategies for a wide range of life’s challenges, Dr. Shah is a recognized leader on laughter yoga,[4][5] trauma-sensitive yoga and yoga nidra. He has released a series of wellness albums with production company Inner Splendor. Dr. Shah also has developed Bodhi Tree Mind-Body, which involves practical religious studies education for Yoga practitioners and Western Buddhists.

Shah has been listed as one of the 15 Asian Scientists To Watch by Asian Scientist Magazine on 15 May 2011.[6]


Dr. Shah received his degree in Religious Studies at Rice University in Houston, Texas in 1994. During his undergraduate studies, he spent time as a visiting scholar at Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania. In addition to completing prerequisites for medical school, he studied anthropology, ethics, Eastern and Western philosophy, fine art, post-modern and post-structuralist critical theory, comparative mysticism and world religion.

Following his college graduation, he deferred his medical school acceptance for one year to pursue his interest in public service and social change movements. He spent this time (1994–95) in India to study humanitarian organizations and social change agents. He is multilingual and speaks Hindi, Gujarati, Urdu, Spanish and Portuguese.

He completed his medical degree at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas in 2000.

Dr. Shah then completed his internship in psychiatry at the Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas in June 2001. Here, he rotated through units for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Treatment, Substance Abuse Treatment, Family Practice, Internal Medicine, Geriatric Psychiatry, Emergency Psychiatry and Child Psychiatry. He trained in modalities of psychopharmacology, individual psychotherapy, group psychotherapy and medical hypnosis.

He then served as a Resident in Preventive and Behavioral Medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. While at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, he conducted several workshops and classes and provided conceptual and technical assistance to Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Project Liberty and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and also took public health classes specializing in Behavioral Medicine and earned a master's degree in Public Health in 2003. He then earned his specialty board certification in General Preventive Medicine.

Professional work[edit]

Dr. Shah founded and served as the executive director of Psychosocial Assistance Without Borders from 2001 to 2007. In this charitable and service organization, he consolidated strategies to build psychosocial capacity to aid victims of complex emergencies while simultaneously preventing vicarious trauma in the workers themselves. Through his development of ethnomedical competence principles, he also integrated locally available treatments with Western treatments. In parallel to Psychosocial Assistance without Borders, Shah also founded Greenleaf Integrative Strategies in 2002 for his training and education work.

Psychosocial Assistance without Borders operated as a charity, and was funded by donations from individuals. Shah gradually began doing charitable work under the auspices of other organizations. He thus discontinued building Psychosocial Assistance without Borders as a standalone non-profit, favoring to keep it as an intellectual platform.

Dr. Shah was in private practice from 2003-2006 in New York City and 2006-2007 in Washington, DC. In his practice, he implemented an integrative health model that utilized standard medical therapies, psychotherapies, behavioral medicine, medical hypnosis, meditation training, yoga and other Eastern health systems.

In 2005, on a Red Cross grant, he served as a Mind/Body Medicine Practitioner at the Olive Leaf Wholeness Center in New York City, New York. The project involved psychotherapy, mind-body treatments and advanced relaxation techniques for uniformed personnel and first responders (New York Police and Fire Departments and paramedics) with treatment-resistant conditions traced to the 9/11 terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center.

Starting in 2008, Dr. Shah devoted his time and efforts full-time on public health training and trauma prevention education through Greenleaf Integrative Strategies. He has appeared on CNN-World and been interviewed on public radio multiple times regarding his efforts.

Public work[edit]

Dr. Shah has conducted programs in Ethiopia, Brazil, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and United States.

2001: After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Shah provided specialized psychosocial trauma services to communities (Arabs, Muslims, South Asians, Sikhs) affected by backlash and Islamophobia (hate crimes and bigotry perpetrated by people looking for revenge against innocents).

2002-2003: Shah traveled to Gujarat, India, where religious violence led to atrocities and numerous survivors of violence. He provided psychosocial training and vicarious trauma prevention to workers in different humanitarian organizations.

2004: Shah traveled to tsunami-affected Nagapattinam district in South India where he gave educational programs on vicarious trauma prevention to workers who were working with human remains, family reunion and survivor rehabilitation.

2005: After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Shah traveled to the Gulf Coast to consult to fire fighters and rescue personnel on operational stress and vicarious trauma.

2005-2006: After the devastating in Kashmir, Shah assembled a team and traveled to Pakistan where he conducted programs in Islamabad, Mansehra and Muzaffarabad to teach relief workers there psychosocial first aid and vicarious trauma prevention.

2006: Shah traveled to South Asia to give tsunami relief workers a program in self-care, as referenced by Ethan Watters[7] in his 2010 publication.

2008: Under the auspices of Psychology Beyond Borders, Shah traveled to Addis Ababa to give a training on trauma and psychological first aid to physicians, nurses, social workers and fistula care specialists.

2008-2009: After the paramilitary attacks in Mumbai, Shah was invited by the Tata Institute for Social Sciences to give a program to local clinicians on psychosocial first aid and vicarious traumatizations prevention. He was also invited by the Times of India to teach journalists on trauma sensitivity and self-care. He, along with Dr. Grant Brenner of Disaster Psychiatry Outreach, was invited by the Bombay Psychiatric Society to provide a disaster psychiatry seminar to local psychiatrists.

In Washington, DC, Shah has worked with several organizations, including Doctors of the World (serving survivors of torture), Deshpande Foundation (philanthropic projects in livelihood) and Smith Farm Center for Healing & the Arts (wellness services for sufferers of cancer). He is currently overseeing the implementation of a USAID program for Civilian Response Corps, for which Greenleaf Integrative Strategies is primary contractor. This program, called “Operational Stress Control for Demanding Environments,” involves pre-deployment stress intervention skills, during mission resiliency coaching, and post-assignment health coaching components.

Family life[edit]

Shah was born in Houston, Texas on July 12, 1972. He attended the DeBakey High School for Health Professions in Houston, Texas. For the first twenty-eight years of his life, he was known by his childhood name of Sunil. After medical school, he began using his legal name Siddharth. He is married to Nisha Gautam of New Delhi, India, who holds a master's degree in Sociology from the Delhi School of Economics.

His mother, Hema Shah, was born in Gujarat, India and grew up in the metropolis of Ahmedabad. His father, Ashvin Shah (born in Gujarat, India) was raised in Bhavnagar, and is a structural engineer and son of prominent Gujarat artist Somalal Shah[8] (1905–1994). Shah has one sibling, Dr. Koonj Shah, who is a fellow in Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine.



2010 Mental Health Emergencies and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. In G.B. Kapur & J.P. Smith (Eds.) Emergency Public Health: Preparedness and Response (493-516). Boston: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.

2009 “To do no harm,” Spiritual Care and Ethnomedical Competence: Four cases of Psychosocial Trauma Recovery for the 2004 Tsunami and 2005 Earthquake in South Asia. In G.H. Brenner, D.H. Bush, & J. Moses (Eds.) Creating Spiritual and Psychological Resilience Integrating Care In Disaster Relief Work (pp. 157-178). New York: Routledge.

2008 “Can Group Therapists Take on Islamophobia?” The Group Circle. Summer 2008 issue. American Group Psychotherapy Association and National Registry of Certified Group Psychotherapists.

2008 Addressing Stress in National Staff. Monday Developments: The Latest Issues and Trends in International Development and Humanitarian Assistance. Vol 26:9, September 2008, p. 21-22.

2007 Ethnomedical Best Practices for International Psychosocial Efforts in Disaster and Trauma. In E. Tang & J. Wilson (Eds.) Cross-Cultural Assessment of Psychological Trauma and PTSD (pp. 51-64). New York: Springer Verlag.

2007 Shah, S.A., Garland, E. & Katz, C. Secondary Traumatic Stress: Prevalence for Humanitarian Aid Workers in India. Traumatology, 13, 59-70.

2006 Shah, S.A. Resistance to Cross-cultural Psychosocial Efforts in Disaster and Trauma: Recommendations for Ethnomedical Competence. The Australasian Journal of Disaster and Trauma Studies, 2006-2.

2006 Shah, S.A., Reich J. Using Literature to Teach Behavioral Medicine. Family Medicine, 38, 159.

Audio CDs[edit]

2007 Sleep Aid With Dr. Siddharth Ashvin Shah - Yoga Nidra and Guided Meditation

2008 Stress Relief With Dr. Siddharth Ashvin Shah - Guided Meditation and Yoga Nidra Relaxation

2008 Stress Relief Vol. II Experience Deep Relaxation - Guided Meditations and Yoga Nidra with Dr. Siddharth Ashvin Shah

2008 Guided Meditation Using Self-Hypnosis Techniques and Yoga Nidra Relaxation for Weight Loss with Dr. Siddharth Ashvin Shah

2008 Experience True Rest - Guided Meditations and Yoga Nidra Relaxation With Dr. Siddharth Ashvin Shah

2008 Mindful Eating Practice, Guided Meditation and Yoga Nidra Relaxation with Dr. Siddharth Ashvin Shah

2008 Stress Management with Dr. Siddharth Ashvin Shah - Guided Meditations and Yoga Nidra for Relaxation in Demanding Environments

2009 Learning the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali: 25 Key Verses in Sanskrit and English

2009 Rest Peacefully & Manage Sleep Disorders Through Self-Hypnosis, Guided Meditation & Yoga Nidra

2009 Quit Smoking Through Self-Hypnosis, Guided Meditations and Yoga Nidra Relaxation

2009 Quit Unhealthy Habits Through Self-Hypnosis, Guided Meditations and Yoga Nidra Relaxation

2009 Learning to Pronounce Yoga Terms: Poses, Philosophy and Kirtan Terms With Anatomically Correct Pronunciation Guide


  1. ^ “Vicarious Trauma (Secondary Traumatic Stress),” The EYEexpress, June 2009.
  2. ^ "A South Asian's Work with Trauma Victims," ABCDlady Magazine, Feature article by Priyanka Dalal, March 2009.
  3. ^ Mangla, Ismat (1 March 2005). "Picking Up the Pieces — Coaching Tsunami Relief Workers". Nirali Magazine.
  4. ^ “Laughter Yoga Therapy" ABC News, Channel 7 Featured resiliency work in medical clinics, March 2007,
  5. ^ “The Best Medicine, Minus the Humor,” Washington Post Style section feature article by Anita Huslin, September 2006,
  6. ^ "The Ultimate List Of 15 Asian Scientists To Watch – Siddharth Ashvin Shah". May 15, 2011. Retrieved June 6, 2011.
  7. ^ Watters, E. (2010). “Crazy Like Us: The Globalization of the American Psyche,” New York City, New York; Free Press. 2010. ISBN 141658708X.
  8. ^ Tushar Bhatt's Blog. Painter Somalal Shah's Magnificent Obsession.

External links[edit]