I left Scientific Sessions 2019 (AHA19) feeling so refreshed, empowered, motivated, and ready to rock it when I got home to Boston. I’ve been told this a lot, but I really felt it this time – that conferences serve more than just to educate and provide a venue for networking; they rejuvenate you. We all exist in our silos within our various institutions, but when we’re at AHA’s scientific conferences, we’re surrounded by people from all over the world, sharing science, friendship, and most important, hope for the future of medicine. AHA19 was particularly diverse in my eyes, I saw more people of color than I have seen at any scientific session, both attending and sharing their science.
When I’m at my institution, I sometimes forget about the world outside of it. You get caught up in the things going on at your institution and the work your research team is doing. You forget that there’s an entire world out there doing brilliant work too and that we’re all in this together – to better medicine and to open doors for the generations we will be passing the baton to. Attending conferences is one of the best ways to exit that bubble.
During the AHA President’s address, when several students from all over Philadelphia were on the stage sharing their stories as part of their ant-vaping campaign – #QuitLying Big Vape – I was assured that the future of medicine is so, so, so bright. The diversity of the students on that stage made me so proud and made me even more determined to work so hard in order to have the ability to create opportunities for the underrepresented women and men who will be our next generation’s healthcare leaders. It’s moments like these that you remember your life’s purpose.
My life’s purpose in medicine is 2-fold. 1) To make sure underserved, underrepresented, and disadvantaged patients receive world-class healthcare. Meaning, if you’re a Google executive or a school environmental services employee- you have the exact same access to healthcare, including organ transplantation. And 2) To make it to the top so that I can create opportunities for historically underrepresented women and men in medicine too. Get to the table and bring all of my friends, and by friends, I mean the women and men missed for opportunities because of the color of their skin, their religious preference or lack thereof, their sexual orientation, the way they wear their hair, their socioeconomic status, their disabilities, or any number of superficial factors that contribute to inequities in medicine.
When you identify your life’s purpose and keep it at the center of every decision you make, I can’t imagine not succeeding. We’ve been given a gift – we are scientists, academics, teachers, advocates, activists, and most important, we are healers. It’s our responsibility to pay that gift forward. Especially to those who don’t have a voice and haven’t made it through those doors yet.
I came home from AHA19 ready to crush more goals and added new ones to my list. AHA19 was literally the juice I didn’t realize I needed. I’m looking forward to AHA20 already.
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Nasrien E. Ibrahim, MD is an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and an advanced heart failure and transplant cardiologist at the Massachusetts General Hospital. She is interested in biomarkers, cardiac remodeling, access to healthcare, understanding mechanisms of health inequities, and women’s leadership in academia. She loves college basketball, hip hop, the beach, and LeBron James. You can follow her at @DrNasrien