From the Member Sections | Representation Matters: How Women Mentorship Steered My Future Plans
I never thought I would be a cardiologist when I entered medical school. My initial interest in cardiology developed during my internal medicine residency at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. I loved my cardiology rotations and excelled in them – I couldn't see myself doing anything else.
Despite receiving a lot of encouragement from my mentors during my residency, doubt remained in my mind about whether cardiology would be a welcoming specialty for women. Especially after realizing that all my co-applicants in residency were men. Being a mother of two added to my concerns.
When the COVID-19 pandemic started, something positive evolved amidst all the chaos. With virtual platforms expanding social interaction, I found an outlet through social media, and discovered health care providers who shared their experiences and supported each other through the pandemic.
I started posting on various social media platforms asking for advice from women in cardiology. I received numerous responses, mostly from women, and especially from mothers sharing their struggles with guilt and doubt. But at the end of the day, their kids all turned out fine.
I found a lot of amazing stories of resilience and success through social media, and others shared many valuable pearls with me. The most important piece of advice was that cardiology fellowship is not a "walk in the park."
But while it is not easy, it is very much doable. The keys for success are preparation and realizing it's not possible to do everything – give yourself some grace and outsource as much as possible (i.e., grocery shopping, food delivery, house cleaning, reliable childcare). Plus, a variety of job opportunities ensures being able to find a job that suits your lifestyle and preferred work-life balance.
One of the women I met online was Anandita Agarwala Kulkarni, MD, FACC. She was studying for cardiology boards when we first connected. She shared that she had her first baby when she was a resident, joined her dream fellowship at Washington University, then had her second child. Her journey as a woman physician, especially in cardiology, was beautiful and inspiring.
Through her mentorship, I realized that cardiology is a welcoming field, there are a myriad of opportunities available for women and mothers, and most importantly, that my hesitation was normal and related to the lack of women representation in the field. She went an extra step and offered me opportunities for research. I enthusiastically completed the first project which encouraged her to connect me with other researchers and even more opportunities.
Another woman who has inspired me during my fellowship is Pascha Schafer, MD, FACC. She has worn many hats throughout her career, such as chief quality officer and associate chief medical officer at Augusta University, and within the ACC as secretary and treasurer for the ACC Georgia Chapter, member of the Health Affairs Committee, and national vice chair for HeartPAC.
She currently serves as an associate program director for the internal medicine residency program at the Medical University of Georgia and, most importantly, is a mother to three beautiful girls. She showed me that being a mother is a source of resilience and consistency.
While women mentorship is important, I would also like to credit my male mentors and supporters. I am grateful for my husband who has supported me throughout, my brother who is a cardiologist and has always encouraged me, and Evan Hiner, MD, who is an associate program director of our fellowship program and a close mentor. His humility, approachable personality, and continued support sets an example of a great mentor to current and aspiring cardiologists.
I am grateful for those who shared their stories, mentored, sponsored and guided me to apply for cardiology fellowship. My journey is just beginning. As a second-year cardiology fellow, I strive to mentor medical students and internal medicine residents and encourage more women to enter the field.
As a mentee, my advice to other mentees is to not shy away from asking questions, stay committed and seize opportunities as they come. Also, try to attend your local ACC state chapter WIC meetings and American Medical Women Association meetings.
I have shared my experiences with many young enthusiastic women and continue to be inspired by the many accomplished women cardiologists with whom I meet. Representation matters – and the future of cardiology is bright!
Clinical Topics: COVID-19 Hub
Keywords: ACC Publications, Cardiology Magazine, Health Equity, Gender Equity, Cultural Diversity, Mentors, Cardiologists, Cardiologists, Pandemics, COVID-19, Fellowships and Scholarships, Internship and Residency, Physicians, Women, Universities, Child Care, Cardiology
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