Feature | Building the Pipeline of Women Leaders: The Critical Role of the BOG

Building the Pipeline of Women Leaders The Critical Role of the BOG

Although women have served on the ACC's Board of Governors (BOG) for more than 40 years, it is only in the past decade that there has been consistent and growing representation of women on the BOG. While inclusion has been one of the fundamental values of the College from its inception, it is only through active and intentional recruitment and support of a diverse group of leaders that we are now seeing true, consistent change – change that is vital to our ability to deliver on our Mission of transforming cardiovascular care and improving heart health.

Since its founding in 1949, the BOG has played a fundamental part in helping to develop and articulate the College's values. Elected BOG leaders bear the responsibility of representing the interests of ACC members across the U.S. through bidirectional communication with the President, Board of Trustees, Member Sections and other key stakeholders. Given this charge, the inclusion of women is essential to ensuring diversity of thought, perspectives and experience.

Making BOG HERstory

The number of women on the BOG who have gone on to serve as ACC President (Mary Norine Walsh, MD, MACC; Athena Poppas, MD, MACC; and Dipti Itchhaporia, MD, MACC.

The first time that the BOG Chair role will pass from one woman to another. Save the date for ACC.23/WCC in New Orleans and plan to attend the Convocation Ceremony on Monday, March 6.

The first state to have a woman serve as governor. Jacqueline Noonan, MD, FACC, opened the proverbial doors to other woman in 1977. Kentucky is also the state with the most women who have served as Governor.

The first year a woman chaired the BOG: Ruth L. Collins-Nakai, MD, MACC.

The number of states that have not had women governors.

The total number of women currently serving as governor or governor-elect, not including BOG Chair Malissa J. Wood, MD, FACC.

Until the early 2000s there were typically only one or two women on the BOG each year (see timeline) and only one woman (Ruth L. Collins-Nakai, MD, MACC) had served as BOG Chair. However, the period between 2004-2009 could arguably be viewed as an inflection point for women and the BOG.

It was during this time that Mary Norine Walsh, MD, MACC, Athena Poppas, MD, MACC, and Dipti Itchhaporia, MD, MACC – three women who subsequently went on to become ACC President – started their terms on the BOG. We've all heard the saying: "You have to see it to be it."

Drs. Walsh, Poppas and Itchhaporia allowed us to witness firsthand a leadership path for women within the ACC. Their leadership in advancing the direction of ACC and promoting diversity within the College has shown so many women, including us, that we can "be it" and more!

For example, the passing of the presidential chain between Drs. Poppas and Itchhaporia in 2021 marked the first time that two women served back-to-back terms as ACC President. In the last two years, a record 15 women were elected to serve on the BOG.

To date, a total of 21 women Governors and Governors-Elect represent the greatest number of women ever to serve on the BOG at the same time. Next year's Convocation Ceremony will also make for another historic moment as the BOG Chair role will, for the first time ever, transition from one woman to another.

The story of women within the BOG is a testament to the power of ACC's member driven leadership and the College's commitment to deepening and strengthening diversity within its ranks and within the profession more broadly. While there is still room for improvement – there are 17 ACC Chapters yet to have a women leader – we are truly changing the field.

The directory of women who have served on the BOG (see timeline) is an impressive list of leading women who have gone on to serve in other leadership roles in both the ACC and other cardiovascular organizations and who, like Bernadine Healy, MD, FACC, and Nanette Kass Wenger, MD, MACC, have spent their lives transforming cardiovascular care. It is a privilege and an honor to watch this list continue to grow.

Women Leading the ACC's Board of Governors

This year marks the fourth time the Board of Governors (BOG) is chaired by a woman. It's the first time ever that the BOG Chair role will pass from one woman to another. And among the first five women to lead the BOG, one went on to president of ACC (so far!).

Ruth L. Collins-Nakai, MD, MACC

Ruth L. Collins-Nakai, MD, MACC

Jane E. Schauer, MD, PHD, FACC

Jane E. Schauer, MD, PHD, FACC

Dipti Itchhaporia, MD, MACC

Dipti Itchhaporia, MD, MACC
(2012-13; ACC President 2021-2022)


Malissa J. Wood, MD, FACC

Nicole L. Lohr, MD, PhD, FACC

Nicole L. Lohr, MD, PhD, FACC
(Chair-Elect 2022-23)

In HER Own Words
Mary Norine Walsh, MD, MACC

Mary Norine Walsh, MD, MACC

Serving as governor of the ACC Indiana Chapter from 2004 to 2007 was a pivotal experience in my leadership journey and set me up for my future ACC leadership roles. Several of our past governors convinced me the time was right and though I thought my kids were too young and I was lacking in experience I threw my hat in the ring for the position.

Cutting my teeth as governor truly changed my view of myself as a leader. I also forged friendships with many in my governor "class" (i.e., Athena Poppas, Jamie Conti, Jane Schauer and Diane Wallis) who remain among my best friends today. We all learned together, shared local legislative issues and solutions, and exchanged tips on how to put on a great chapter meeting. Most importantly, we acknowledged that we were all cut from the same cloth and saw in each other a similar bent toward leadership. Then, and now, we acknowledged our similarities, including the fact that some of our partners and colleagues in our practices and institutions didn't understand or appreciate our interest in leading change, volunteering and being part of something bigger.

I am excited to see so much interest in being involved at the chapter level and I am absolutely thrilled to see that a growing number of women are running for and being elected as governors.

Mahi L. Ashwath, MD, MBA, FACC

Mahi L. Ashwath, MD, MBA, FACC

The governorship and being a member of the BOG has been one of the most gratifying experiences of my career. Watching role models like Laxmi S. Mehta, MD, FACC, and Dipti Itchhaporia, MD, MACC, as leaders made me realize it's possible for me to do the same. Not only was I able to do the things I enjoy the most and work towards the causes that mean the most to me, I was able to develop some amazing friendships and meet wonderful people. While trying to balance clinical work, chapter responsibilities and family is challenging, mentoring the next generation of cardiologists, seeing your chapter grow and meeting amazing people along the way makes it worth it. I see more women involved and active in the BOG and this is wonderful. My advice to other women: do what you are passionate about and don't let other noises drown your own inner voice!

Malissa Wood, MD, FACC

Malissa Wood, MD, FACC

I joined the BOG to demonstrate to a talented and diverse pool of future leaders that the ACC offers opportunities for all of us! My path to the BOG included involvement with the Women in Cardiology (WIC) Section Leadership Council and serving on my chapter council and leadership team as chapter treasurer. My time on the BOG has further enhanced my leadership skills and given me the ability to network with, learn from and lead an incredibly diverse and talented group of colleagues. I tell other women that "imposter syndrome" is a mountain most of us have to climb, but we can scale this mountain with the support of friends and colleagues. Reach out and seek their candid advice and guidance regarding how best to develop and apply your talents and competencies, whether it's a leadership role in your Chapter, the College or your institution.

Annabelle Santos Volgman, MD, FACC

Annabelle Santos Volgman, MD, FACC

I joined the BOG after practicing cardiology for 32 years. I felt that my experience could help others enjoy cardiology as a career and I wanted to be able to mentor and sponsor others to help them with their careers. While being a governor can be a big commitment of time, being able to encourage the younger members in our Council and committees to take on leadership roles, engaging with and getting to know local women in cardiology, and bringing people together to accomplish major goals like the annual chapter meeting, are some of the biggest rewards. Today, there are more women than ever in the BOG. This can make it easier to find others who support you and vice versa.

Retu Saxena, MD, FACC

Retu Saxena, MD, FACC

I'm the first woman to serve as Governor from the Minnesota Chapter. When I was asked by the nominating committee to run for the BOG, I hoped it would be a stepping stone to further develop my leadership skills. Some of my biggest challenges to date have involved the transition from the COVID pandemic to in-person meetings and events, but at the same time the networking and mentorship with other women leaders have provided incredible opportunities. My advice to other women: take opportunities to say yes to the challenges!

ACC Women Governors By TERM Timeline
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Keywords: ACC Publications, Cardiology Magazine, ACC History

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