I was delighted to be selected as one of the American Heart Association (AHA) early career fellows in training bloggers for the year 2021-2022 during my first-year cardiology fellow. During 2019, the AHA conference was in Philadelphia and in-person. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic surge, we have learned how to attend virtual to hybrid conferences. Slowly, we have adapted to the new way of the virtual conference to be our harsh reality amidst an ongoing pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic shed light on an essential aspect of healthcare. It brought forward the disparities in health care from enrollment of underrepresented patient populations in trials to the care of these patients.
The AHA has always emphasized equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) in the conferences and attempted to promote enrollment of the underrepresented population. The #AHA21 was a testament to these continued efforts visible in all sessions and specially planned sessions based on EDI. During the 3-day #AHA21, there were multiple exciting sessions.
Along with incredible live sessions regarding the ongoing groundbreaking research in the field of cardiology. There were multiple exciting on-demand sessions on EDI. Financial Toxicity and Cardiovascular Health Management and Outcomes by Dr. Krumholz from Yale School of Medicine was an incredible session raising important questions regarding the impact of the costly intervention on patients’ financial freedom, an aspect that is often ignored by the providers. Similarly, another session by Dr. Sharm from Johns Hopkins University discussed important concepts about monitoring of women with pregnancy complications or preterm deliveries discussed the important aspect of Cardio-Obstetrics, which has not been discussed much in the past.
With the pandemic, cardiac rehabilitation became challenging in the first place. However, with the evolution of the reach of virtual technology, Dr. Beaty from the University of California, San Franciso, discussed the innovative ways to encourage and involve patients in remote cardiac rehabilitation in older adults, women, and people of color as well. This kind of remote approach can potentially help in reaching all patient populations, thereby breaking the barriers of social determinants of health.
Not only #AHA21 provided a platform to practice with keeping social determinants of health. It also provided a platform for the fellows in training regarding how to navigate being a new parent in a special seminar. This was a heavily attended session with more than 100 participants where fellows shared their experiences of navigating through the challenges of being a parent during the fellowship. Everyone shared the nuances, tips, and tricks of being a parent during the fellowship, which was very powerful. These kinds of sessions can encourage more women to join cardiology and thereby close the leaking pipeline and bridge the gap.
The #AHA21 commitment towards motivating women in cardiology is also evident by the complete absence of MANELS in this 3-day conference and a testament to immediate past president Dr. Bob Harrington’s commitment towards #HeforShe campaign encouraging more women towards cardiology.
It’s heartwarming to see the success of #AHA21 and the fruition of EDI efforts of AHA extending from patient care, fellows in training to physicians.
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Devesh Rai, MD is cardiology fellow at Rochester General Hospital. His research interest include equity, diversity and inclusion along with outcomes research. He aims to specialize in cardiovascular imaging with a focus on prevention. He is passionate about democratizing cardiovascular education and is faculty member of CardioNerds Academy. Twitter: @DeveshRaiMD