A Career in Preventive Cardiology: It’s A Lot More Than Statins

I spent the finale of #AHA20 Tuesday evening at the “What You Need to Know for a Career in Preventive Cardiology” fireside chat hosted by the lovely Dr. Anum Saeed with experts Drs. Ann Marie Navar, Andrew DeFillips, Seth Martin, Michael Shapiro, and Martha Gulati. The panel discussed the following topics:

Exploring the field of prevention when your program may or may not have a prevention program 

Certainly, one month of exposure is not enough to truly get a taste of the multiple flavors within this field which includes exercise, cardiac rehab, hypertension, advanced lipidology, multimodality imaging and risk scoring, diabetes, and obesity. That being said, it’s important to find a way to get involved even if your program doesn’t have a prevention program. Request to spend elective time in other specialties including Endocrinology where SGLT2 inhibitors are routinely prescribed, clinics where weight-loss medications are frequently used, and other areas in medicine that may intersect within prevention. If you do spend time in cardiac rehab, don’t just spend time with the physicians but also hang out with the exercise physiologists on the floor who engage with cardiac patients- there’s a lot to be learned from them.

Finding an academic position in prevention

Unfortunately, the current reality is that reimbursement for preventive services does not pay the bills for a cardiology division. This means that it’s extremely important for you to find a niche or expertise within cardiology that gets you paid. This can include an imaging modality, interventions (yes, there are interventionalists who practice as preventive cardiologists!), quality improvement care, research, healthcare delivery, technology, and clinical care.  The hope is that in the not-too-distant future, we will transition to more of a value-based care model.

Another very insightful pearl from the panel: when you ask for your position, know what you need early on and ask for what you want. DEFINE WHAT YOU NEED UPFRONT and where you need that time to develop a program, work on research, or start an initiative that will be productive for your department.

A day in the life of an academic preventive cardiologist

This varies widely depending on the unique interests and expertise of the individual. This can range from spending 2 week blocks caring for patients in the cardiac intensive care unit to then being off for 2 weeks followed by an outpatient clinic and research time. If you are primarily research, this may mean having a clinic one day a week with 70% of the time focusing on writing/research and attending national meetings, and collaborating with preventive groups across the world.

The future of prevention

“We’re more than giving statins.” The exciting areas of prevention and late-breaking science that were highlighted during #AHA20 speak for themselves. SLGT2 inhibitors, the promise of Inclisiran, and the polypill are just the tip of the iceberg within the field of prevention. With artificial intelligence and machine learning, polygenetics, implementation science, health equity, and digital technology, the field of prevention will be pivotal in improving outcomes such as myocardial infarction, for example, by tailoring therapy based on individual risk rather than covering everything with all available treatments. Lastly, if there is a silver lining of this #COVID-19 pandemic, it is that the cardiovascular risk factors and health disparities that have come to the surface are now being prioritized as the path for future research trials and public health movements.

I’ll leave you with a Chinese proverb one of our panelists shared: “A superior doctor prevents sickness; A mediocre doctor attends to impending sickness; An inferior doctor treats sickness.”

Stay well, be well, and be safe. And wear a mask.


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