Ana Barac, MD, FACC: Leading the Charge For an Evolving Specialty
According to an old Latin proverb, “You are worth as many people as the languages that you speak.” By the terms of this proverb, Ana Barac, MD, FACC, who is proficient in Croatian, Spanish, Italian, English and French, is an exceptional person. However, this is not where the exceptionality ends.
Barac, the chair of ACC’s newly established and rapidly developing Cardio-Oncology Section, is a native of Croatia, where she attended medical school. Upon completing her medical degree, she moved to Sweden to pursue a PhD in her “first true passion” – the molecular mechanisms of disease. After notching four years in Sweden, Barac made the trek to the U.S. to continue her molecular biology training at the National Institutes of Health before eventually completing her residency.
“I have always been fascinated by molecular mechanisms, and I pursued clinical training to see how these mechanisms translate into disease and to help answer questions surrounding disease processes,” she explains. “I sort of fell in love with cardiology, specifically imaging, during my residency because I thought it was a very neat tool to provide insight and context into changes and mechanisms – why things happen in the cell the way they do.”
Through a blend of cardiology and oncology, Barac has been able to fuse a multitude of passions into one professional path. “Research questions have always kept me awake and going, but I also tremendously enjoy patient contact,” she says. “Being able to do both is fairly unique to my specialty. I’m able to continue asking research questions and reap those rewards in that area of my work, but research rewards can take a very long time. Rewards from patient contact, however, are immediate. There is incredible value that comes with having patient contact. It is a fantastic gift to be able to combine these two worlds through my specialty.”
Barac has been an active participant in ACC activities since her fellowship, during which she was an active Fellow in Training Section member, followed by active participation in the Early Career Section. In addition to serving as chair of the Cardio-Oncology Section, she is also a member of the Women in Cardiology Section. “I came to this country for professional development. I have always lived by the mantra that one does what they want to do, and the pay will come,” says Barac. Citing the recently published research on disparity in pay between cardiologists based on gender, she explains that “these numbers were shocking and eye-opening for me. There is no easy answer, but I consider myself fortunate to be a part of an organization that pays attention to this and is taking steps to combat this issue.”
When asked about her role models, Barac credited her peers. “ACC provides a wonderful environment to meet people outside of your institution who share both similar and different passions. You can collaborate with people and see great examples of doors being opened, exposing you to new things and new opportunities.”
In her extracurricular time, she finds joy in travelling, which she describes as “a necessity and a pleasure.” “It is amazing to be a part of a profession that isn’t limited to origin,” she says. “The need for cardiovascular care professionals expands across every part of the world.”
This love of travel comes as no shock, given her long list of international residences and influences, but she is not the only member of her family with a passion for travel. Her eight-year-old daughter, Lara, has travelled with Barac and her husband, Federico Asch, MD, FACC, to every ACC Annual Scientific Session since she was born. When Barac was leading the enthusiastically-attended Cardio-Oncology Section meeting at ACC.16, her daughter received “free entry” and attended, as well. However, for Lara, attending cardiology conferences is only a hobby, as she currently wants to pursue a profession as a ballet teacher, but until then, if you see a precocious young girl making her way around ACC.17, be sure to say hello.
Learn more about the Cardio-Oncology Section at ACC.org/Cardio-Oncology.
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