Annette Dress in Green Paisley
In the presence of Dr. Naila Makhani, one instantly feels the need to slow down and smile.
Her stethoscope is draped over the cowl neck of the classic Neville Wisdom Carol Dress. She is wearing black tights and boots, and looks appropriately professional and at ease. “I would describe my style as professional, comfortable, and a little edgy,” she says.
I remember when Dr. Makhani visited the Neville Wisdom – Westville shop for the first time and Neville and I spent a good amount of time fitting each item of clothing to her petite figure. “I heard about Neville Wisdom from a friend,” she says, “I was across the street at a local salon one afternoon and decided to stop in based on my friend's enthusiastic recommendation.”
Carol Dress in Black
“I love the personalized attention that I receive when I visit,” she says, “Neville and the staff are talented at finding clothes that look great and suit my body type. They can alter each piece so that it fits perfectly. I also like getting to know Neville and the staff and seeing the space where my clothes are actually made. The shopping experience here is intimate, friendly and a lot of fun!”
We walk through Yale-New Haven hospital in her cheerful ease and begin talking about her research focus in Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and pre-MS in children. I recall the time that my younger sister contracted Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis (ADEM) and how doctors tested her for MS with a spinal tap. In the end, it wasn’t MS.
"A majority of kids with ADEM don't go onto have MS,” Dr. Makhani says, “My research focuses on why some kids do and why some kids don't, and what the markers are because if we can identify them early, and those kids who go onto have MS, it can have implications for their long-term prognosis, starting treatments early."
The diagnosis and cause of my sister’s illness was unclear, but the steroid treatment was definitely not an easy one. My family and I were unable to receive clear answers. Thankfully, there are medical investigators like Dr. Makhani working to learn more.
“The research is meaningless without my patients. They inspire me. They're what generate the interesting research questions, and the whole reason to do [research] is to come back and help those patients.”
Cowl Peplum Dress in Cornflower Blue (left), Turtleneck Top in checkers (right).
Dr. Makhani most recently traveled to Vancouver, her hometown, to give a presentation of her work. “The work that I'm going to present actually about pre-MS, it's about kids who were imaged with Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) for other reasons, say, they got a bump on their head or a headache, and so they got a MRI scan, but the MRI scan is linked to MS, and a percentage of those kids do go onto have MS. A percentage don't. They go walking around completely healthy,” she says. “The work I'm going to present is about whether there are markers that distinguish the kids that go on to have MS versus those that don't"The work I'm going to present is about whether those markers of the kids that go onto have MS show progression or are clinically silent, and incidental. Are they a different age? Are they a different sex? Do their MRI's look slightly different? Is there a different number of spots on their MRI? And then, future work is going to be based more on biology.”
“Are those markers mostly genetic?” I ask. “Some of them are genetic, some of them are other biological markers. So for instance, what your vitamin D level is, what viruses you've been exposed to. All of those things can help us predict who's going to go onto have more symptoms.”
Dr. Makhani travels internationally every couple months––Denmark, the Netherlands, and Spain, to list a few––to present her work and exchange knowledge with colleagues. Every year, she travels to Los Angeles, California.
“The agency that funds me right now is called Race to Erase MS. Every year they have a celebrity fundraising gala in L.A. This year they invite not just the donors, but the scientists. I went last year, it was so much fun. This year, I think I'll wear this dress (below).”
“I love the personalized attention that I receive when I visit. Neville and the staff are talented at finding clothes that look great and suit my body type.”
Dr. Makhani wears the Faux Vest Dress in Black Silk Matka to this year's Race to Erase MS gala.
Getting to travel to new and exciting places as part of the job is a luxury most people don’t have. Dr. Makhani takes the work structure into her own hands.
“One of the things I love about my job is meeting with colleagues and presenting my work in meetings, and working with other people at various institutions. I structured it that way by making an effort to present at meetings, it's so much easier to have discussions in person. It's making time and an effort to go out there and present. You have to take advantage of being able to travel while you're young,” she says.
She also travels with her husband, “We will often meet at meetings. He is a musicologist with a Ph.D. in Music History. He studies the history of why we think what we think about music. So he works on the history of writings by people like Rameau and Rousseau and what they've written about music. He also plays the cello.”
As a physcian-scientist with a challenging and varied worklife, Dr. Makhani found a way to structure the system to fit the needs of her research and patients while making sure that she has a balanced work lifestyle. “75% of the time I'm working on my research, and the other 25% is clinical work. I love what I do,” she says, “It's a perfect balance because I see kids, and that helps formulate interesting questions, and then I get to go answer those questions through my research. This comes back around to improving the care of other children. The research is meaningless without my patients. They inspire me. They're what generate the interesting research questions, and the whole reason to do [research] is to come back and help those patients.”
I note that her workflow seems streamline and ask what the biggest challenge is. “Streamline? Not so much,” she says, “It's a little chaotic. It's balancing a lot of things. But it's fun because it's interesting and it's challenging. The biggest challenge is balancing many things: from taking care of my patients with making time for research, to making time for family.”
One of Dr. Makhani’s looks features the best-selling Neville Wisdom Turtleneck Top paired with her own leather pants. Leather pants in an academic-hospital definitely seems edgy. “I don't normally wear the leather pants with the Turtleneck Top. But one of these days, on a non-clinic day, I think I'll wear it. To see patients, I wear more dresses. I get compliments all the time. People stop me and ask, ‘Where did you get that? Of course I tell them Neville Wisdom.”
Samantha Coat in Red Cashmere
Dr. Makhani is a Canadian from Vancouver, but she and I connect on the subject of Québec City. Both Québec Cityand New Haven are both beautiful mid-size cities with unexpected cobblestone streets, quaint alleyways, great restaurants, and wonderful local craftsmanship. My family and I drove up from New York many summers to spend several days exploring all that and the grand St. Lawrence River. “It's one of my favorite places to visit,” she says, “One of my favorite places to shop. I know a couple good, small, local designers. I love to support local designers. That’s one of the reasons I love Neville Wisdom. It’s great to have something that is made right in the community. His designs are beautiful and funky.”
Her favorite piece? The Samantha Coat in red cashmere. “It is both stylish and warm,” she says, “It dresses up everything.”