All roads led to Rochester

All roads led to Rochester

Aekta Miglani ’04, ’10 (MD), ’13M (Res) pursued her undergraduate and medical education at the University and now serves as the vice chair of operations and medical director of Strong Memorial Hospital’s emergency department.

Dr. Miglani headshot

Aekta Miglani ’04, ’10 (MD), ’13M (Res), vice chair of operations and medical director of Strong’s ED

As a child, Aekta Miglani ’04, ’10 (MD), ’13M (Res) wanted to be an artist or an architect someday. Or maybe even an astronaut. She dreamed big. Her parents encouraged her varied interests while underscoring the future they saw for her: they thought she should pursue a career in medicine.

When it came time to apply to college, Miglani, who grew up in Pittsford, NY, wanted to prove her parents wrong (as many teenagers do). “My plan was to apply to the University of Rochester’s undergraduate-to-medical school program and show my parents that I could get in, after which it would be clear to everyone that medicine would not be the right path for me,” says Miglani.

A new plan

Miglani’s plan started off as she imagined: she was accepted into the University’s Rochester Early Medical Scholars (REMS) program, which grants select students admission to both the undergraduate College and the School of Medicine and Dentistry (SMD). Soon after, she did what she was supposed to do and met with her advisor, Gregory Connors, MD, the head of REMS. Connors told Miglani what she didn’t expect to hear.

“He said that as a college student at Rochester, I could still pursue my creative interests and that the best physicians use both sides of their brain,” she adds. “I was intrigued and quickly realized that medicine could very well be a good fit.” Her parents were right after all.

And, because Miglani was already accepted into SMD, she had proven her aptitude for the sciences. This meant she could take full advantage of Rochester’s flexible undergraduate curriculum, which she did. For instance, she took courses in art, religion, and philosophy—and she loved it all.

Meeting the right people

At the end of her senior year of college, Miglani was a bit nervous about the pending demands of medical school. That’s when she met Flavia Nobay, MD, a recent transplant to Rochester and the new director of the REMS program, who inspired and reassured her.

“I was awestruck by Dr. Nobay’s knowledge and presence,” noted Miglani. “I thought: Rochester attracts the most amazing people.” Nobay—now a professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine and the associate dean for student affairs—and others like her reaffirmed Miglani’s decision to become a physician.

Miglani has never looked back. At the end of medical school, she was on track to pursue a surgical residency. Then, in her fourth and final year of medical school, Miglani did her final clinical rotation in emergency medicine.

“After the second or third shift in Strong Memorial Hospital’s emergency department, I realized that this—not surgery—was actually the place for me,” she says. “I fell for the people who worked in the ED and their approach to medicine.”

A career full of milestones

When it came time to match for her residency, Rochester became Miglani’s first choice—again. She wanted to stay in Strong’s ED and she did.

After her three-year residency ended, Miglani–who had become one of the ED’s chief residents–thought it was finally time to leave Rochester. Fate intervened though; her mother was diagnosed with cancer and Miglani needed to stay nearby. She spoke with Michael Farhad Kamali ’01M (Res), MD, a professor and the chair of the ED, about staying another year. “Dr. Kamali told me that I could stay, but that I might never want to leave—he was right.”

Since completing her residency in 2018, Miglani has served in a variety of roles within the ED and is currently its vice chair of operations and medical director. “The ED is a special place,” she says. “Everyone is guided by a certain ethos and a commitment to each other and all those who come to us for help.”

It’s been a career full of milestones, too. For instance, in the early days of COVID, Strong sent Miglani and a small health care team to New York City to treat patients. “We got through a giant bag of unknowns and came back with tools that helped us manage our ED response when COVID hit Rochester hard,” she adds.

Miglani has also been involved in many community outreach programs, including programs with the Rochester City School District that encourage students to explore careers in medicine. In 2021, Miglani was nominated for a Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce ATHENA Award, too, which recognizes top women leaders in the community.

Strong Expansion Project

More than 110,000 patients visited the ED in 2021 in a space designed to serve less than half of that number of people. Strong ED’s overcrowded waiting room and treatment areas are just some of the issues that the Strong Expansion Project will address in phases, with scheduled completion in 2027.

The project, the largest capital project in the University of Rochester’s history, will nearly quadruple the ED’s footprint and will have a designated triage area, distinctive waiting rooms and private treatment areas for adult and pediatric patients, and will house the Comprehensive Psychiatry Emergency Program and the Kessler Trauma Center. Plans also include a new nine-story inpatient bed tower, which will add additional floors for cardiovascular care, short-term patient observation, and future operating rooms and treatment services, along with more private inpatient rooms.

Until that happens, Miglani and the ED staff will continue to use every space possible to treat patients, from hallways to former staff areas to make-shift patient and family consultation areas. “It’s challenging, but we do our best,” she says. “This is our community, and we are here to serve it.”

— Kristine Kappel Thompson, February 2023