Dr. Shiwei Zhou - Connecting the Puzzle Pieces

July 24, 2020

Shiwei Zhou, MD, Assistant Professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases, graduated from the Infectious Diseases Fellowship Training Program at Michigan Medicine, where she also completed her residency. As an infectious diseases specialist, Dr. Zhou diagnoses, manages, and treats a wide range of complex infections. She was on the frontlines when Michigan Medicine began caring for patients with COVID-19, initially on the general ward and Intensive Care Units (ICUs), and then in the Regional Infectious Containment Unit (RICU).

Dr. Zhou enjoys the collaborative nature that is intrinsic to the infectious diseases specialty and the hunt to diagnose the especially mysterious disease presentations in patients. She is also a member of the Antimicrobial Stewardship Program (ASP) team, where she helps to promote safe, appropriate, and cost-effective antimicrobial therapy to optimize patient outcomes and to minimize the selection of pathogenic microorganisms and the emergence of resistance. 

Behind the Scenes with Dr. Shiwei Zhou

Dr. Shiwei Zhou

How did you become interested in infectious diseases?

I had an incredible rotation on the infectious diseases (ID) service as a fourth year medical student. After that, I was sold! In ID, you’ll see a wide range of diseases, care for patients who are complex and very ill, and interact with physicians all across the health system. It is a great field.

What does a typical week look like for you?

In a typical week, I will see patients at our ambulatory Infectious Disease Clinic at Taubman Center on Wednesdays and at the Domino’s Farms Comprehensive Wound Care Clinic on Thursdays. The rest of my time is spent on administrative tasks as a part of my work with our ambulatory clinic and the Antimicrobial Stewardship Program, participating in research meetings, and writing and revising papers for journals. About 14 weeks out of the year, I am on the inpatient ID consult service where I see patients in the hospital all day.

What was your involvement in Michigan Medicine’s preparation and caring for patients with COVID-19?

I was on the inpatient ID consult service during April, May, and June of 2020 and was able to help the primary teams take care of COVID-19 patients, initially on the general ward and the ICUs, and then in our Regional Infectious Containment Unit (RICU). In my administrative role, I helped with the ambulatory ramp-up and wind-down, as well as with the development of treatment guidelines for COVID-19 patients as a part of the antimicrobial stewardship team.

Dr. Zhou was on the research team that found that critically ill COVID-19 patients who received tocilizumab were less likely to die than those who didn't receive the drug: "Observational Study Finds Drug That Calms ‘Cytokine Storm’ Associated with 45% Lower Risk of Dying Among COVID-19 Patients on Ventilators".

What advice would you give to someone who is considering specializing in infectious diseases?

Come and spend some time with us! You’ll find ID goes to every corner of the hospital, crossing all disciplines, and meeting patients from every walk of life. ID is a crucial field – something we’ve all become even more aware of in the era of COVID-19. And it also has the benefit of being fun and engaging and full of mysteries and surprising answers. It is a field that has so many areas in which you can make your own path and leave a mark.

What parts of your job give you the most satisfaction?

There are so many things! Here are five off the top of my head:

  • Putting the pieces together on a patient with a mysterious presentation and unlocking the diagnosis.
  • Seeing and treating an infection that I’ve never seen before.
  • Getting a paper accepted for publication and seeing yourself in print.
  • Starting a patient with HIV on antiretroviral medications, then letting them know a month later that their viral load is undetectable.
  • Helping to manage a critically ill patient with an infection – then seeing them in my outpatient clinic a few weeks later, out of the hospital and looking like themselves again.

Who has inspired you the most?

My husband has been my most consistent source of inspiration and steadfast support.

Recently, the entire Michigan Medicine ID Division has been an incredible inspiration to me in how everyone worked together during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. As an individual, COVID-19 made me feel afraid, uncertain, and off-balance. But as a part of the ID Division – with the support of colleagues who are expert clinicians, clinical trialists, basic scientists, hospital epidemiologists, antimicrobial stewards, health policy makers, educators, ID pharmacists, and more – with everyone pulling together, everyone taking on extra duties and responsibilities in response to the pandemic, I felt renewed by our mutual purpose and reaffirmed in my choice of career.

How do you balance your work and personal life?

I find my work incredibly engaging and meaningful, but at times it can also become all-consuming. In those times, I take a step back and remember the advice of a wise medical school mentor: the only place where I am indispensable is at home – and not at work. That means I try to allocate time with family in a way that is in alignment with their priority in my life – organizing schedules and having weekly ‘meetings’ with my husband and extended family to make sure we are all on the same page. In addition, the medical school’s parental leave policy is very generous and my entire division has been very supportive of faculty with young families.

More about Dr. Zhou… 

You can find all of her publications and read more about her research at Michigan Research Experts

You can keep up with what she's doing on twitter @zhoushiweis.