Dr. Ana Mrkaic, an endocrinologist at UNLV Medicine, recalls that as a little girl she always questioned the existence of things around her.
She just had to find out, for example, why she would hear thunder, how the snowflakes formed that fell on her in her native Serbia. “I was drawn to the origins of various things,” said Mrkaic. “I’m still driven by it and exploring the endocrine world.”
Today she is a medical doctor who treats the problems, diseases, and disorders of the endocrine system, a complex network of glands that produce hormones that regulate various functions in the body. The majority of their patients have endocrine pancreatic disease, better known as diabetes.
Mrkaic said she’s digging deeper and deeper to find the source of a patient’s problem rather than relying on the “obvious clinical picture”.
Her father was a gynecologist and her mother a pediatrician-neonatologist. She says she learned from her parents that “the first thing that was important was to think through both clinical and biochemical data and then piece together the puzzle. They were both excellent at getting the correct diagnosis. “
It was not a matter of course that Mrkaic would follow her parents into the practice of medicine.
Change of course
“I was so fascinated by literature and art by almost the end of high school that I thought I was likely to become a writer. My parents never expected me to follow their careers. You left all decisions about our lives to my brother and me. In my senior year in high school, I realized that what draws me to literature is people who literature and the arts are about. I realized that I wouldn’t be able to live a life away from them and that I would like to become a character they can rely on, like my parents always were. ”
Mrkaic received her medical degree from the University of Niš in Serbia, where she also did a PhD in molecular biology. Her doctoral thesis examined the effects of gestational diabetes on the remodeling of the fetal heart – how the heart changed its structure and shape due to diabetes. Because she realized so many medical innovations, new scientific discoveries and new treatment approaches in the US, Mrkaic said she had decided to complete her more intensive medical training in the US
She completed a degree in internal medicine from Mountain View Hospital in Las Vegas and an endocrinology fellowship from the University of Arizona. She said her work with her medical school professor, Dr. Borislav Kamenov, a well-known immunologist in Serbia, helped her decide to receive an endocrinology scholarship.
The endocrine system, with its network of gland-producing hormones, is one of the body’s instruments that help regulate and modulate its immune system. It works with the nervous system and the immune system to help the body cope with various stresses. A number of endocrine disorders (including thyroid, parathyroid, pituitary, and adrenal disorders) are quite rare. A much more common endocrine disorder is diabetes. More than 30 million Americans, nearly 10 percent of the US population, have diabetes.
The more Mrkaic works with patients with diabetes, which takes up a large part of her professional time, the more she believes in educating patients.
“Diabetes is a very complex problem, not only from a biological but also from a psychological point of view,” said Mrkaic, who is also an assistant professor in the Department of Internal Medicine at the Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine at UNLV. “Patients need to strive to understand how to change their lifestyle, and much more courage and strength to live the recommended, healthier lifestyle. I think the first step has to be an important conversation with patients in which you build a relationship of trust and love. We are the team, doctors and patients in this fight against diabetes. We should spend more time explaining and teaching. “
COVID-19 has impacted their doctor’s office, but Mrkaic hasn’t let it help patients.
“COVID-19 started during my fellowship, so I did a lot of telemedicine. Patient care has been taken over by the adoption of new rules by which we must live and work. There is not much left but to accept these new rules. It is life after all. It has its own rivers and streams. We should just follow them. Like everything else, one day it will be gone. We should do our best during these difficult times to protect ourselves and others and make the most of them. “