A Road Less Traveled – My Reflections

As a Woman in Cardiology (WIC) editorial fellow for the ACC Fellow in Training (FIT) editorial board, I feel a tremendous sense of gratitude and responsibility to be a voice of insight and conviction for the FIT community. I am extremely humbled to represent the perspective of a WIC FIT of Indian heritage. I decided to take this opportunity to reflect on the unique journey of female cardiology aspirants from India to the U.S. – a path I am currently undertaking and one that is often described as the “road less traveled.”

This sentiment is not a mere perception but unfortunately a harsh reality that some of us face. Gender-based disparities in medical education exist in India, closely followed by differential career trajectories with respect to pursuing specialty training including cardiology fellowships, perpetuating the purported “leaky pipeline.” Efforts aimed at increasing awareness, commitment to supporting WIC, and collective action from medical and cardiology communities across the world is enabling a shift in momentum toward achieving gender parity and equal representation. My journey starting as a medical student from India, the first female in my family pursuing this career path, culminating in this moment – sharing my thoughts on what was previously probably a more controversial subject, which is now not only openly discussed but encouraged on this platform. This is a testament to what has been achieved thus far and I hope that my experiences may resonate with some of you and highlight the potpourri of unique career journeys.

As an aspiring cardiology fellow, I look back and see not only how far I have come but I also celebrate my personal and professional growth and important milestones along the way. I am fulfilling dreams shared by my family and mentors and surpassing boundaries that were (intended to be) crossed with the support of an amazing community. I realize the journey is also about how well you get to wherever you want to be, and it is critical to remember that it is a choice that we are each afforded. Some paths may be less traveled and unique, and the nature of this journey of navigating unchartered waters is similar as a WIC – we should leverage the support and combined spirit as a community to achieve individual and mutual goals.

I share a few of the lessons and insights I have gained along the way:

  • Rejection is redirection: Lessons learned from failures and asking myself “what went wrong or what didn’t work” were equally important as success that came from “what went right.” This balanced approach can guide us to pivot and take our next steps.
  • Play to your strengths as you identify and work on a weakness: It helps to gain awareness of our unique strengths, as well, and helps us make better choices. Reflect on your core values and beliefs. Ask your mentors and colleagues what they like about you, your strengths, areas for improvement and what stands out!
  • Formulating a “To Be” list is as important as a “To Do” list: Amidst the challenges and demands we face every day, it is equally important to check in and ask ourselves, “Are we feeling purposeful, focused, compassionate and happy at work?”
  • Make your journey your own: I have learned to embrace it as an expanse of open possibilities to invest in ourselves and grow. The WIC community, mentorship and friendships make the journey worthwhile.

Inspired by and echoing the words of Robert Frost:

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.”

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This article was authored by Suvasini Lakshmanan, MD, advanced cardiac imaging Fellow in Training (FIT) at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance, CA. Twitter: @suvasiniL