FIT May Spotlight: Sheila Sahni, MD

May 17, 2017 | Sheila Sahni, MD
Career Development

Each month, the Fellows in Training (FIT) Section newsletter, ACC On-Call, will highlight the achievements of one cardiology FIT. The Section would like to recognize Sheila Sahni, MD, an interventional cardiology fellow at the University of California, Los Angeles Medical Center, as the 'star FIT' for the month of May. Sahni describes her research interests, hobbies, career goals and involvement with the ACC in a short interview below.

What are your plans after cardiology fellowship?
After completing my final year of interventional cardiology fellowship training, I plan to join my father, an interventional cardiologist, Rakesh Sahni, MD FACC, in his clinical practice in New Jersey. The practice is set to merge with a growing health system in the latter part of 2017. I am excited for this transition as the health system has expressed interest in having me initiate their Women's Heart Program. Additionally, I have an early-career goal of creating a successful Complex High-Risk Indicated Patient program in a collaborative team of cardiothoracic surgeons and interventional cardiologists to offer patients complete revascularization when surgery is not an option in NJ.

What are your hobbies outside of cardiology?
I have a passion for art in museums and galleries, as well as painting on my own. Painting is my favorite past time – I take a white canvas, draw an abstract design and use color theory with expressive brushstrokes to create my "art". I also love to exercise, particularly high-intensity interval training as well as circuit running. I love being out on the water in any form but open-ocean paddle boarding is my favorite.

How do you approach work-life balance?
Work-life balance has been a moving target that has changed at different stages of my medical training. After moving to Los Angeles and taking care of patients with coronary artery disease, personal health and wellness became a priority for my "life balance". While this year has been the most challenging with Q2 call and every other weekend call, I have committed to exercise at 6 a.m. ET on my on-call days to ensure adequate sleep the night before and to counteract any possible "excuse" of late night call or case volume. I also take the time to cook and meal prep on my days off which helps me stay in balance and feel "healthy". My commitment to personal health and wellness has made the time I spend with loved ones and doing the things I enjoy more fulfilling. Regarding managing relationships with family and friends outside of work, communication is key. I use FaceTime to stay connected and try to find time before work or during breaks at work to quickly catch-up or say "hello" given most of my friends and all of my family are on the East Coast.

Do you have any mentors that you would like to recognize?
Karol Watson, MD, PhD, FACC, my general cardiology fellowship program director, encouraged and supported my career with her unflinching belief in my ability to be successful. I would frequently arrive back from a conference or a meeting with a new idea, and she would help me take it to the next level and bring it to fruition. We worked together in clinic my third year where I learned her expertise in lipid management and cardiovascular prevention, which was a priceless experience. Most importantly, she allowed me to be a very active, involved member in the UCLA Women's Heart Program, which is a skillset I will use as I build my Women's Heart Program in NJ. Ravi Dave, MD, FACC, my interventional program director, has empowered me throughout my invasive cardiology training. As a general fellow, he identified my skillset and encouraged my autonomy in the lab. When he offered me the interventional cardiology position at UCLA in the early portion second year, he encouraged me to take on every case I could before my interventional start. As his interventional fellow, I have grown confidence, agility and astute clinical acumen in the lab through his mentorship, support and trust in approaching high-risk complex interventions. Mentors may not realize how impressionable we are but it was his teaching and training in the lab that had cultivated my passion to provide complete revascularization in patients with complex coronary disease.

How did you first become involved with the ACC?
I was involved as a resident when my one of my abstracts was accepted for a poster presentation at ACC's Annual Scientific Session in 2013 in San Francisco, CA. In June 2014, I applied for an ACC Legislative Conference travel grant and attended my first legislative conference in September 2014. It was through ACC's advocacy initiatives that I found a foundation for my involvement with the College. Subsequently, I applied and was selected in the Emerging Advocates Program in September 2015. This program has enhanced by advocacy training, strengthened my foundation in leadership skills and opened a number of opportunities for me in the College.

What other ACC activities are you involved in?
I have gotten involved with the ACC by attending national meetings and the sessions held by the Women in Cardiology (WIC) committee throughout my entire fellowship training. Whether it was attending a lecture led by a woman cardiologist on a successful career with work-life balance or a writing project with a mentor, WIC committee sessions have been integral part of my professional development. I am also a member of the Interventional Council's Communications Working Group.

However, it was my involvement at the ACC Legislative Conference that truly opened my eyes to opportunities I had not seen before. After learning about the power of social media during an Emerging Advocates meeting at the Heart House, I chose to explore the use of social media in advocacy and was asked to moderate the workshop on "Using Social Media to Engage with Congress" session at the 2016 ACC Legislative Conference. A few months later along with M. Chadi Alraies, MD, I gave a webinar on the "Use of Social Media for Cardiologists" in January 2017. Together, we also facilitated a session on social media during ACC.17 in the FIT Lounge. My work in social media has also led to writing projects with the ACC, which are currently in progress.

What advice do you have for other FIT members?
To all fellows, get involved in the College! The doors are open and the opportunities are endless! There are many avenues by which fellows can get involved and one's involvement can be as straightforward as needing a mentor for career advice or working on a new idea or project. In our field that is demanding and, at times critically-intense, my involvement in the College has allowed me the space to reflect on my clinical experience, receive mentorship and help generate ideas of constructive change for our field in the advocacy space. Additionally, be passionate about what you work on outside of "work". Any additional contribution to cardiovascular medicine outside of your clinical responsibilities is voluntary and should enhance your professional or personal fulfillment. It is really important to enjoy your "extracurricular" cardiology activities such as leadership positions, research, writing projects, conference calls and advocacy efforts.