ACC WIC Section Extends Reach, Holds First Meeting in the Middle East

During the ACC Middle East Conference in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, this past October, members of the ACC Women in Cardiology (WIC) Section held their first-ever international WIC Section meeting in the region. The goal of the meeting was to bring together female cardiovascular influencers from around the world to discuss practices, careers, personal lives and some of the unique challenges they face as women in the field of cardiovascular medicine.

About 55 people from all career levels attended the WIC meeting, including a dozen men who expressed their support in advocating for female cardiologists. Here we share some of the stories and perspectives from female faculty who participated in the meeting.

Mirvat A. Alasnag, MB, BCH

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The concerns of young women in medicine remain similar across the globe. In Saudi Arabia, the enrollment of young women in the field of cardiology mirrors the worldwide trends, with few women choosing this specialty. The first ACC WIC Section activity conducted in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, took the format of a speed mentoring session for a group of young professionals with international and national faculty. Topics varied from work-life balance to establishing a center for women and heart disease.

It was a special opportunity to compile a database of local mentors and train them to become potential local mentors and sponsors. However, the unique part of this meeting was the involvement of men in the program, several of them leaders in the community. They expressed interest in encouraging young physicians to explore cardiology as a career and providing them future opportunities. Even more interesting was that seven young men who were enrolled in local internal medicine residency programs attended the speed mentoring session.

The feedback from them was important to hear and they felt that the discussions around the tables resonated with them too. One young man told me: 'During residency, irrespective of gender, no one talks to us about work-life balance. This was an eye-opener.' As an ACC WIC Section council member, I wonder if including more men in such activities makes them an integral part of the solution moving forward and allows us to break the barriers and stereotypes. Men can mentor and sponsor women, and women can mentor and sponsor men.

Rima S. Bader, MD, FACC

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It all started for me at the ACC WIC meeting during ACC's 2018 Annual Scientific Session in Orlando, FL. There were women in cardiology from all different parts of the world and I was amazed at how willing they were to share their thoughts and experiences, despite their different backgrounds and details of their profession. I immediately remembered my old dream – to gather all Saudi women working in cardiology under one roof. But how? We then began working on an ACC WIC meeting to be held in my hometown: Jeddah.

I believed this event would support the younger generation of female cardiologists and help them not only plan their carrier, but also shine in the cardiology society. I never had this type of support when I started and I would have loved it. The meeting was a great success. The love and warmth that connected all speakers, participants and organizers was unique and motivating. The strength and value of these ACC WIC meeting is evident. We must continue to help women come together to strengthen the human race and prosperity.

Alison L. Bailey, MD, FACC

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I had the honor of attending the ACC WIC Section meeting during the ACC Middle East Conference in Saudi Arabia. We had a diverse group of women representing the ACC, many in current or prior leadership positions within the College, who represented many clinical areas and practice pathways.

During the speed networking sessions, we discussed our career paths, clinical roles and leadership opportunities within the ACC and other professional organizations. It was inspiring to talk about career options and the issues that transcend one's country such as education, career milestones, home-life balance and what the future of medicine looks like for all of us.

For the evening, we were able to be a part of something larger than what we normally do and interact with a motivated group of women across the world who share the same love of cardiology! I learned that we are much more alike than different, and share many of the same challenges – and victories – in our practice and lives. Working with our international members is an important part of the ACC, and meetings like this move us closer to our mission to transform cardiovascular care and improve heart health for everyone.

Dipti Itchhaporia, MD, FACC

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Since this ACC WIC meeting was the first ever in the Middle East, attendee enthusiasm was palpable. Every woman in the room was eager, grateful, bright, motivated and full of passion. During the meeting, we broke into roundtables with ACC leaders to share experiences and ask questions in a more intimate setting. At my table, we had a discussion about the fact that some younger women are soft spoken and how this can be viewed as a lack of confidence or assertive speaking.

The women shared that they struggled with being heard and projecting confidence and feel they would be viewed negatively for being loud. They also shared their frustration for being passed up for leadership roles in their organizations and desire to pave the road forward for all women to overcome their perceived obstacles. I was so proud to be part of this historic event and moved by the stories of these incredibly smart and passionate women – and I think they were moved by the opportunity for this type of interaction.

Biljana Parapid, MD, PhD

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The concept of the ACC WIC Section – so brilliantly led by Sandra J. Lewis, MD, FACC, and Claire S. Duvernoy, MD, FACC – gained a new dimension with the visionary idea from Mary Norine Walsh, MD, MACC, that international ACC membership needs to be mobilized. I could not be prouder of Mirvat A. Alasnag, MB, BCH, for proposing to host the first regional ACC WIC Section event in Jeddah. It took a lot of great work to make it happen.

I'm also grateful for the support found in the ACC Middle East Conference Course Directors Mohammed Balghith, MB, CHB, FACC, and William Zoghbi, MD, MACC, as well as in Roxana Mehran, MD, FACC, who endorsed the idea of a speed-mentoring table session at the meeting. Alasnag was also helped locally by a true network of women in cardiology, who clearly see her as a leader willing to fight globally for the female cardiology agenda.

My heart is full and this event will not remain a one-time episode. We are strategically working with ACC's International team to identify competent women in cardiology in regions where we are lacking feedback, and to help them develop their leadership skills for the benefit of all female cardiologist worldwide. I will end with paraphrasing a very wise statement from Mehran, who emphasized that the importance of competence cannot be stressed enough: We do not endorse women purely for being women, but because they are competent women in cardiology.

Keywords: ACC Publications, Cardiology Magazine, Mentors, Internship and Residency, Leadership, Middle East, Heart Diseases, Mentors, Work-Life Balance, Goals, Motivation, Learning, Societies, Faculty

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