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Women’s History Month: Cardiology Edition

Somehow it’s already March, which means it’s Women’s History Month, so I wanted to take this opportunity to highlight some of the many amazing cardiologists and researchers (who also happen to be women) who have shaped our field.

Last month, I wrote about the importance of science outreach, especially with regard to promoting science and cardiology to young girls and women, because women still make up around only a third of scientific researchers and only around 13% of cardiologists are women. To learn more, Renee P. Bullock-Palmer’s most recent blog is a great resource.

This month I wanted to highlight some of the women who paved the way for the rest of us.


Now, unsurprisingly, simple Google searches for things like “scientists who shaped cardiology” or “most famous cardiologists” provide results that are pretty male and pale. There weren’t that many pieces that included women in their lists of cardiologists/researchers, and there were only a handful of sources I found that focused specifically on women. Lucky for you, I’ve collected what I found here! I’m also going to highlight several of the brilliant women who shaped our field – this is by no means an exhaustive list of amazing women in cardiology (or their accomplishments) because there are too many to fit on one list.

 

Maude Abbott, MD was a Canadian physician who invented an international classification system for congenital heart disease in the 1930’s. Her work the Atlas of Congenital Heart Disease became the definitive reference guide on the subject.

 

Helen B. Taussig, MD, FACC is widely regarded as the Founder of Pediatric Cardiology. In the 1940’s she developed the operation to correct the congenital heart defect that causes “blue baby” syndrome. She received the Medal of Freedom from President Lyndon B. Johnson and was the first female president of the American Heart Association.

 

Myra Adele Logan, MD was the first woman (and only the 9th person!) to operate on a human heart in 1943.

 

Marie Maynard Daly, PhD was first African American woman to obtain a PhD in chemistry in the United States, whose research in the 1950’s was invaluable in demonstrating the relationship between high cholesterol levels and heart attacks.

 

Celia Mary Oakley, MD was one of the first women cardiologists in the United Kingdom and was part of the team that coined the term hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in the late 1950’s.

 

Sharon A. Hunt, MD was just one of seven women in her 1967 medical school class and she went on to revolutionize the field of heart transplantation by working to improve survival rates by identifying and treating rejection and determining how to reduce the side effects of the drugs.

 

Nanette Kass Wenger, MD, was among the first cardiologists to focus on heart disease in women, and to evaluate the different risk factors and manifestations of the condition, specifically coronary artery disease, in women and men. I was lucky enough to talk with her about her work at AHA Sessions 2018, which I wrote about here. You can also follow her on twitter @NanetteWenger.

 

Christine Seidman, MD, is a researcher who transformed the field of cardiovascular genetics with her research that uncovered the genetic basis of many human cardiovascular disorders, including cardiomyopathy, heart failure and even congenital heart malformations.

 

Elizabeth O. Ofili, MD, MPH, FACC is a clinical scientist who led the effort to implement the landmark African American Heart Failure Trial (AHEFT), whose findings improved the practice guidelines for the treatment of heart failure in African Americans. She also became the first woman president of the Association of Black Cardiologists in 2000.

 

Ileana Piña, MD, MPH, FACC is a nationally renowned cardiologist known for her work in heart failure and improving patient rehabilitation outcomes. Her work has also upturned preconceived notions about women in the medical community and she works tirelessly to get more women into clinical trials.

 

Rong Tian, MD, PhD is a leader in the field of cardiac metabolism whose work has been translated to clinical trials. Among her many contributions, she was the first to demonstrate that AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) acted to remodel cardiac energy metabolism, which critically informed the heart failure field. You can also follow her on twitter @Rongtian2.

 

I want to note, that these cardiologists and researchers are not important just because they are women – they are talented scientists and cardiologists who happen to also be women. But pieces like this are important because representation matters. It’s important for everyone, especially young girls and women, to see that it’s possible not just to be successful in this field, but also to revolutionize it.

 

Helpful sources & suggested reading:

 

 

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The Invaluable Importance of Mentorship Throughout Your Career as a Female Cardiologist

Featuring an Interview with Dr. Stacey Rosen recipient of the American Heart Association (AHA) 2018 “Women in Cardiology Mentoring Award”

 

Lack of Females in the Cardiology Field

Over 36% percent of Internal Medicine residents are females. Despite this fact, females account for less than 20% of the Adult Cardiologist workforce in the United States and account of less than 10% of Interventional Cardiologists in the United States1. Recruitment and retention of many talented female cardiologists remain a constant challenge and is due to a variety of reasons. Some of these reasons include the thought that cardiology is a grueling field that does not allow for work life balance and is often inhospitable for females desiring to start a family. There is also difficulty in retaining females in the field due to increased gender discrimination in the field1. In fact the Professional Life Survey conducted by the American College of Cardiology had reported that many female cardiologists in the field report a high level of career satisfaction which has not changed over the last 20 years1. However, there are many challenges that have remained the same for female cardiologists over the last 2 decades, such as gender discrimination, the need to arrange for paid or unpaid childcare, being single and not having any children1. In addition, there has been aging of the workforce and there are increasingly more female cardiologists practicing in an academic and/or hospital employed setting rather than in private practiceand therefore having less autonomy over their work schedule and environment.

 

Need for Effective Mentorship For Female Cardiologists and the American Heart Association Women in Cardiology Mentoring Award

 

There is an ever increasing need to not only recruit more females in the field of Cardiology, but to also retain many talented female cardiologists in the field. Finding a good mentor and fostering good mentorship is invaluable for many females throughout their career in Cardiology. The Women in Cardiology Committee of the American Heart Association (AHA) values the importance of good mentorship and as such bestows the Women in Cardiology Mentor Award that is sponsored by the AHA Council on Clinical Cardiology to Cardiologists who have been recognised as having an outstanding record of effectively mentoring and supporting female cardiologists. Dr. Stacey E. Rosen,  Endowed Chair and Vice President for the Katz Institute for Women’s Health at Northwell Health, Partners Council Professor of Women’s Health at Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine at Hofstra University and Professor of Cardiology at the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell is the recipient of the 2018 AHA Women in Cardiology Mentoring Award. She has mentored and supported numerous female cardiologists, and in the following interview, I had the honor of discussing the following questions with Dr. Rosen.

Courtney could we add a hyperlink to the AHA WIC mentor award nomination site?

 

What attracted you to the field of Cardiology?

Dr. Rosen: “I am the first member of my family to become a doctor. I am the daughter of educators and while in high school , I volunteered at Memorial Sloan Kettering in the pediatric child-life center. I thought that the medical field would allow me to pursue various professional options including clinical care, education, advocacy and research. I felt one could never be bored in medicine! As a student in the 6-year medical program at Boston University, we dissected a bovine heart and I was so amazed by the “simplicity” of the structure. Nothing else seemed intriguing after that – my only important decision was between pediatric cardiology and adult cardiology.”

Who were the inspirational persons that influenced this decision?

Dr. Rosen: “The Division of Cardiology at Boston University School of Medicine in the 1980’s – and ever since – was extraordinary. The faculty at Boston City Hospital (BCH) demonstrated commitment and passion for those in the underserved neighborhoods near BCH and the faculty at University Hospital were national respected clinicians , investigators and educators.”

Who were your mentors in Cardiology and how did they contribute to the advancement of your career?

Dr. Rosen: I completed Internal Medicine residency and a chief resident year at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, and was privileged to work with an impressive Division of Cardiology. Hildrud S. Mueller, MD and James Scheuer , MD taught me the importance of rigor and attention to detail in both clinical work and research. I presented my first oral presentation with John Fisher, MD – the recently retired division chief – and learned to perform a complete and thorough cardiac exam with Mark Menegus, MD.

As a fellow at Cornell – New York Hospital, Mary Roman, MD, Peter Okin, MD, Paul Kligfiled, MD, and Richard Devereux, MD fostered my fascination with imaging and non-invasive cardiology. Doppler physics was replacing hemodynamic assessment in the cardiac catheterization lab and I was hooked!

Finally, my first faculty position was at Mount Sinai Medical Center. Working in the echo lab with Martin Goldman, MD was an extraordinary opportunity. He inspired me to view echocardiography as a critical tool to enhance optimal patient care and helped me to develop the skills to become a lab director in my next position.

You have mentored many colleagues in the Cardiology field and have been valued by many as a great mentor, which led to your selection for the 2018 AHA Women in Cardiology Mentorship Award. What are the factors that mentees should consider when selecting a mentor?

Dr. Rosen:Mentees should consider several critical factors:

  • Compatibility – Choose someone with whom you are compatible but not someone who is a “mini me“ of yourself. You do want a mentor who will challenge you, be comfortable providing feedback, and teach you to internalize and utilize feedback to advance your goals.
  • Trust – You want a mentor whom you can trust – you will likely be sharing important and perhaps confidential conversations. It is also critical to know that you must earn a sense of trust from your mentor.
  • Expertise – Your mentor does not have to have the most senior titles or positions, but should have the requisite expertise to help you advance your career and help navigate challenges.
  • Willingness – A great mentor is one who is devoted to helping you develop a vision and is delighted to share knowledge and wisdom. It should be someone who is a good listener and has sufficient time to commit to the relationship.

 

Would you recommend having more than one mentor?

Dr. Rosen:  “Absolutely! But do remember that the mentee needs to commit sufficient time to each relationship in order to optimize the value of the partnership

 

How can mentees truly harness the power of strong mentorship?

Dr. Rosen:First – choose your mentor wisely and respect the relationship. Meet with individuals who you think may be good mentors and ask questions that will help you make a decision and get advice from friends and colleagues. Networking is often the key to identifying good choices.

Second – do the work and always respect the relationship! Discuss the goals and expectations of the partnership, as well as the process for communication, meetings and feedback. Be respectful of your mentor’s time and build trust immediately.

 

What are the differences between mentorship and sponsorship?

Dr. Rosen: Simply put – mentors advise you, while sponsors advance your career. A mentor is someone who can offer support, guidance and feedback, and allow you to develop your personal vision. A sponsor is earned – not chosen. A sponsor connects us to opportunities and advocates for our career advancement. It has been said that women are over-mentored and under-sponsored.

 

 

How has the experience of being a great mentor for so many colleagues contributed to your own career and personal growth?

Dr. Rosen: My late father was a middle school principal and my mother is a retired school teacher who taught in an underserved community in Brooklyn, NY. I learned from them the deep satisfaction one gets from teaching and advancing someone’s skills and abilities. I am also so grateful to MY mentors and get great satisfaction from “paying it forward.”  I am certain that I have learned as much from my mentors as they have learned from me!

What have been the 3 most rewarding experiences you have had throughout your career?

Dr. Rosen: As the director of the fellowship program at Northwell, I have had the privilege to work with dozens of trainees. I have helped impact their professional success and hopefully, the joy they find from practicing cardiology.

As chief of cardiology at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, I was able to rebuild a division that had weathered a hospital merger. Together with my colleagues, we completely revamped the division.

As a lifelong advocate for women’s heart health, I get enormous pride seeing the impact we have had on women’s health through improved clinical care, advances in gender-specific investigation and through advocacy and changes in policy. I know that our work is not done and that we still need to continue to advance women’s heart health agenda.

How has the field of Cardiology evolved over the duration of your career with regards to gender diversity and inclusivity of women in Cardiology?

Dr. Rosen: Unfortunately, our field has not advanced sufficiently when it comes to gender diversity and inclusion in Cardiology. Currently, fewer than 25% of cardiology fellows are female and fewer than 15% of board-certified cardiologists are women. Now that women are 50% of medical school graduates, the importance of developing a strategic approach to this lack of diversity is critical, or we will see a true talent drain in the near future. The good news is that both the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology have focused on lessening this disparity by better understanding the barriers facing female cardiologists and by making changes that will encourage young women to choose Cardiology.

What advice would you give to females considering a career in Cardiology?

Dr. Rosen: I can honestly think of no better choice! As clinicians, we can develop long-term longitudinal relationships and have an enormous impact on health and longevity. I believe that cardiology combines the best features of primary care and subspecialty medicine. As investigators, we can have a lasting impact on individuals and communities. Cardiology is also a field that is perfect for those who enjoy advocacy and advancing health policy improvements. I urge women NOT to eliminate Cardiology as a possibility because of concern about the challenges. Find the area of the field that you love, without fear or compromise, and then make decisions that will allow you to fulfill your vision of work – life integration.

References:

  1. Lewis SJ, Mehta LS, Douglas PS, et al. Changes in the Professional Lives of
    Cardiologists Over 2 Decades on behalf of the American College of Cardiology Women in Cardiology Leadership Council. J Am Coll Cardiol 2017

 

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Women In Cardiology & The 2:00am Leadership

The Women In Cardiology (WIC) community has grown in recent years and has represented professional women in many ways. Tangible accomplishments include advocacy for more women on panels (#NoManels), curbing harassment (#MeToo), opening leadership opportunities and much more. Many have recruited men into the campaign for women (#HeForShe). Guidance into what men can do has also been emphasized, for example, speaking up when a committee lacks diversity and lending an early career woman a research opportunity. But, have we given women enough guidance? I fear not. Allow me to display examples where women have failed other women. It’s a collection that I’ve discussed over the course of the last several months in WIC workshops across the globe.

 

Time: 2:00 am

Place: Cathlab

Setting: STEMI & shock

Woman interventional cardiologist (IC) calls the on-call anesthetist (a fellow woman) to provide deep anesthesia because “I need to cardiovert this patient who had primary PCI and now in AF with RVR and is hemodynamically unstable”.

Anesthetist: Okay the patient is asleep, but does he really need cardioversion?

IC: Yes.

IC calls to technician: 200 Joules.

Anesthetist: No. It should be 100 Joules according to the AHA algorithm.

With an unstable patient on the table, is this the time to be questioning a colleague’s judgment in front of her staff? I fear using “patient advocacy” as an excuse to lecture a qualified cardiologist on the management of arrhythmias is inappropriate. Many electrophysiologists have reservations about the very conservative algorithm. 2:00 am in the cathlab is hardly the time or place for such a discourse. Perhaps at a more suitable time, a scientific discussion can educate everyone on the indications of cardioversion for AF. Why is this incident reckless and detrimental on many levels?

  1. It undermines a colleague in front of her staff to whom she has to prove herself every day.
  2. It doesn’t help a patient who is unstable. Every failed shock reduces the chance for the next shock to work.
  3. It portrays an image of two professional women “bickering” over a crashing patient.

 

Time: 2:00 am

Place: Email

Setting: Clinic Schedule

Cardiologist (a woman) fires off an email to the Chief of Staff expressing disillusion with the “disruptive” clinic schedule that was planned by her immediate section head (a woman). Why is this incident reckless and detrimental on many levels?

  1. It undermines the leadership of the section head, a woman nonetheless.
  2. It negatively impacts the relationship between colleagues (2 women).

Wouldn’t it have been more constructive if she spoke to her head first and made her recommendations? The worst part of this whole story is that the immediate section head did not design the clinic schedule. It was the Chief of Staff. The “backstabbing” backfired and the notion was that this cardiologist is not a team player. It would have been wiser and more respectable to go through the appropriate channels with suggestions for improvements. Why is this incident reckless and detrimental on so many levels?

  1. It doesn’t build team spirit or trust. It does the exact opposite.
  2. It damages future prospects for both women in the workplace. It leaves the impression that the head cannot inspire or lead and the other woman is not a trustworthy team player (late night backstabbing email).
  3. On a larger scale, it suggests men can be more professional even when competitive.

 

Time: 2:00 am

Place: International Teleconference

Setting: Planning of a Scientific Activity

A woman participant claims ownership of an idea that belongs to the chair of one of the subcommittees (a woman) and bypasses her. The worst part of this story is the director of this scientific activity (also a woman) allows her to do so. She does not empower the head of the subcommittee by channeling all projects/decisions through her. She does not acknowledge the other participants. Instead, this woman’s name is placed first in all communications. Why is this incident reckless and detrimental on so many levels?

  1. It proves that women can do other women more injustice by stripping them of credit and authority.
  2. It projects an image that women leaders lack fair leadership suggesting that it’s no better (perhaps worse) than men’s leadership.
  3. It casts doubt on the efficiency of the various WIC programs in providing leadership training and addressing such inconsistencies.

 

The purpose of this month’s blog is not to be critical of women. To the contrary, there have been many women exhibiting true leadership and effecting concrete changes. Now we find lactation areas at major meetings, opportunities for women to serve as proctors and live transmission operators, and emphasis on diversity in training programs and the workplace. I do believe we have to build on that momentum. The purpose of this blog is to allow for some self-reflection on our part as women in the field. Whether we like it or not we are held to higher standards. Any deviation by one woman is considered a setback for all and any success story of one woman is a stride forward for all. It is not a fair world and prejudice/inconsistencies are noted on all fronts. I am a catheterization laboratory director and have been for a couple of years now. Every single day I have to prove I’m capable and reliable. Every single day, and no matter how much time has passed, I still need to assert my authority and earn respect from men and women. I know that when men are given leadership opportunities, the respect and authority are automatic until proven otherwise. For a woman, it gets exhausting after a while…and that’s why we have more work to do & more self-reflection can only help.

 

Not references for this blog, but worthwhile data for WIC:

  1. O’Sullivan S. Women in medicine: deeds not words. Lancet. 2018;392(10152)1002-1003.
  2. Mehran R. Women’s Voices in Cardiology: An Uncomfortable Silence. JAMA Cardiol.2018;3(8):676–677. doi:10.1001/jamacardio.2018.1289
  3. Breaking the Catheterization Laboratory Ceiling. JACC 2017;69(21)2668-2271.
  4. Lautenberger DM, Dandar VM, Raezer CL, Sloane RA. 2013–2014 The State of Women in Academic Medicine: The Pipeline and Pathways to Leadership. Washington, DC: Association of American Medical Colleges, 2014.
  5. Prasad M. Gender in cardiology: work yet to be done. J Am Coll Cardiol 2016;67:3016–9.
  6. Wang TY, Grines C, Ortega R, et al. Women in interventional cardiology: update in percutaneous coronary intervention practice patterns and outcomes of female operators from the National Cardiovascular Data Registry. Catheter Cardiovasc Interv 2016;87:663–8.
  7. Carr PL, Gunn CM, Kaplan SA, Raj A, Freund KM. Inadequate progress for women in academic medicine: findings from the National Faculty Study. J Womens Health 2015;24:190–9.
  8. Lewis SJ, Mehta LS, Douglas PS, et al., for the American College of Cardiology Women in Cardiology Leadership Council. Changes in the professional lives of cardiologists over 2 decades. J Am Coll Cardiol 2017;69:452–62.
  9. Bates C, Gordon L, Travis E, et al. Striving for gender equity in academic medicine careers. Acad Med 2016;91:1050–2.
  10. Marchant A, Bhattacharya A, Carnes M. Can the language of tenure criteria influence women’s academic advancement? J Womens Health (Larchmt) 2007;16:998–1003.
  11. Hlatky MA, Shaw LJ. Women in cardiology: very few, different work, different pay. J Am Coll Cardiol 2016;67:542–4.