Pediatric Cardiology Fellow
BSE Biomedical Engineering, University of Michigan; MD, University of Michigan; Internal Medicine and Pediatrics Residency, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX.
Adult congenital heart disease in academic setting with additional focus on medical education
What is a typical day like?
Completely varies depending on rotation. I recently finished CVICU and consult service months which each had ~80 hours a week of clinical duties. I’m currently on dedicated research time, so my overall schedule is more flexible but still very busy with conferences, meetings, teaching, etc.
Soon to be a new mom. Marathon runner. Working on bucket list of visiting and hiking all the national parks.
What is the most challenging aspect of your fellowship?
The lack of hard evidence for most things we do in caring for congenital heart patients. It’s so different from adult cardiology in that way, where there are huge nationwide studies for nearly everything. Everything we ‘know’ is new within the past several decades, and a lot of it will continue to evolve and change as we get better at multicenter and database studies.
How have you balanced your fellowship with your personal life?
The most important advice I received in my first year of fellowship was to “give up on balance.” At first this seemed counterintuitive, but the point trying to be made was that “balance” is an elusive concept that is realistically impossible to pinpoint. With any job, fellowship included, there will be an ebb and flow to how busy you are on a given day/week/month. Focus on the big picture and not the day to day as far as balance goes. The most important thing for me has been to be present wherever I am to make the most of my time – I work hard at the hospital so that I can turn it off when I get home. I focus on the time I spend with my family so that I can recharge and be a better doctor when I come back to work. Having a clear division between work and home is challenging, especially with smartphones and laptops, but the more I am able to do it the better I tend to feel about being balanced.
If you could go back to residency, what would you tell yourself?
Don’t put your life on hold for residency. I know I made lists in my head of things I would do as soon as residency was over — why wait? Fellowship and faculty positions are unlikely to be any easier. Make the most of where you live. Take the trips you want to take. Be selfish with your time — you don’t have to say yes to everything. Be curious even when you’re tired.
When/how did you decide to pursue cardiology?
As a second year med student, we had a multidisciplinary conference about hypoplastic left heart syndrome during our cardiology block. As an engineer, I was amazed at the series of surgeries used to completely redirect blood flow and compensate, albeit imperfectly, for having such a significant portion of the heart completely absent. I remember turning to my classmate and saying it was the single coolest thing I had ever seen. I thought about several other fields both during med school and residency but always came back to congenital heart disease. The physiology is challenging to understand and something I know I’ll still be excited to think about and teach many years from now.
How did you find your mentor(s) and develop a successful mentor/mentee relationship?
I found my first mentor during residency by searching attending bios on our program’s website to see who had ongoing research projects that sounded interesting. I focused on ACHD since that’s what I thought I was interested in. The first person I met with ended up introducing me to a few other people after we met to talk about what my research interests were, and this led to my most significant ongoing research mentor/mentee relationship. The biggest advice I have is to be proactive and prepared when you communicate and meet with your mentor — by showing them you are committed and serious, you increase their motivation to invest time in you. Set goals and deadlines and meet them — in doing this, you earn the right to hold them accountable as well. But always be polite and understand that things come up. Don’t be afraid to have multiple mentors. And if you don’t get along with someone, it is completely OK to finish the project you’re working on and move on.
What question(s) should every applicant ask during fellowship interviews?
I think some of the most important questions to ask during the fellowship interview process are questions to ask yourself. Being honest with yourself about what type of learner you are and about your priorities based on career goals, family, etc. is absolutely critical in deciding what you need to ask the programs you see. I liked to ask about what different programs felt was unique about their program — it can help to allow you to differentiate between programs which are otherwise similar in volume, patient population, academic expectations and track record, etc.
What advice do you have for other women pursuing cardiology?
Go for it! There is a huge need for women in cardiology. My overall attitude has changed a bit since I was a medical student, though. When I was younger I used to have the attitude that I can do anything I want and that being a woman didn’t matter at all. Now that I’m married and pregnant, I realize it does matter — just not in the ways I expected. Find female role models and mentors and talk to them. Find colleagues and talk to them. Instead of pretending we don’t face a unique set of challenges being female, be open about them and find ways to make things work. Speak up if you are treated unfairly. But more than anything, my advice is the same I’d give anyone — work hard, be curious, and care about your patients.
If you weren’t a physician, what would you be?
A teacher and soccer coach.
How do you spend your days off?
Running, walking my dog, hiking with my husband, and soon I’ll add spending time with my new baby.
What is something your colleagues wouldn’t know about you?
I played college soccer for the University of Michigan.