What it Means to be a Woman in Cardiology: Notes From the Southeast WIC Conference

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In early April, female cardiology Fellows in Training (FITs) and mentors met for an eventful weekend at the annual ACC Southeast Regional Women in Cardiology (WIC) Conference in Fairhope, AL.

The charming, quaint town fostered the perfect environment for attendees to bond over common experiences at work and in life.

Sessions focused on how to negotiate a contract, physician rights, financial planning, career advice for subspecializing, dealing with burnout, and juggling personal and professional responsibilities.

New mentor relationships were created and friendships were formed. Excitement filled the conference room and attendees were inspired to be leaders in their communities.

Conversation topics included, "Does the perfect mom, wife and physician really exist? And can we do it all?"

As we reflected on our individual journeys to cardiology, we realized that our overall goal is to fulfill these duties to the best of our abilities. We can strive for perfection most of the time while making sacrifices when needed, but not compromising where it matters the most.

The panel of female cardiologists pointed out, "the most important patient we have to take care of is the person in the mirror." The concept of "building your own village" and utilizing resources to make life easier with "out-sourcing" household chores was a recurring theme.

Alison Bailey, MD, FACC, preventative cardiologist and heart failure attending at the University of Tennessee, emphasized that choosing to prioritize our free time away from completing house duties to spending time with family and friends should not be viewed as being less of a woman.

Esther S. H. Kim, MD, cardiologist at the Vanderbilt University, stated, "it is all about finding out what works for you."

Topics covering burnout and the concept of "moral injury" were debated. As cardiologists, we are responsible for providing excellent care to our patients despite challenges, such as patient noncompliance, health care disparities and an ever-changing workplace landscape.

Learning to cope with work-related stressors is an ongoing challenge for many, but understanding there is a good support system available to all makes it better.

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The conference attendees also discussed financial matters such as our common misperception that wealth equates with financial security, and the importance of saving and investing in retirement early.

Additionally, aspects of our professional dynamics with our male colleagues were brought up, including the concept of "benevolent sexism," which refers to the paternalistic belief that women are fragile and need protection by men.

Toniya Singh, MBBS, FACC, cardiologist at the St. Louis Heart and Vascular Institute, stated "it's the art of balancing communication with others to achieve what you want."

A key aspect in dealing with conflict resolution with our male colleagues is being transparent and appreciative of feedback.

Lastly, we discussed how cardiologists can tailor their career pathways and customize their own schedules. "It is all about being the cardiologist that you want to be," stated Mary Norine Walsh, MD, MACC, past president of the ACC, who was also in attendance.

Overall, this year's ACC Southeast Regional WIC Conference was a huge success. FITs had the pleasure of meeting other female cardiology fellows and attendings from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee. We renewed old acquaintances and made new friends.

I am looking forward to attending and actively participating in next year's conference.

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This article was authored by Rohini Manaktala, DO, cardiology Fellow in Training (FIT) at Ochsner Clinic in New Orleans, LA.