Inspiring Women in the Pursuit of Electrophysiology

“You can’t be what you can’t see.” This quote from American civil rights activist, Marian Wright Edelman, is the opening line of a recent editorial comment published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology,Getting Into the Rhythm of Gender Parity in Electrophysiology” by Erin D. Michos, MD, FACC; Annabelle Santos Volgman, MD, FACC; and Kamala P. Tamirisa, MD, FACC. It is well known that women in electrophysiology (EP) are unicorns, and reasons for that include a lack of female mentors, perceived concerns regarding radiation safety, and the challenges of work-life integration in a procedural subspecialty. These issues were recently explored in a survey published in JACC regarding gender differences in EP.

Rather than focusing on why women don’t choose a career in EP, I want to take this opportunity, as a Women in Cardiology editorial board member, to tell other FITs why I am proudly pursuing a career in EP. I hope I can inspire other women and encourage mothers like myself to join me in changing the landscape of EP.

What first attracted me to EP was the blend of analytical thinking, catheter-based skills, and surgical abilities. I was quickly inspired by the fact that my attendings were both masters of physiology and skillful proceduralists. Additionally, given the variety of procedures electrophysiologists learn and perform, I saw an opportunity to build a practice tailored to my future family life. To strive toward a better work-life balance, I imagine I may perform shorter and perhaps more straightforward procedures as an attending. However, I may choose a different path towards complex ablations if I feel inclined to do so during EP fellowship. The opportunities and possibilities are truly endless!

When reading Michos’ editorial comment, one point that resonated with my journey was about male allies, the so-called “he-for-she.” In fact, I credit my male mentors who helped cultivate my passion for EP. The WIC movement is wonderful and has created an incredible network for cardiologists. However, we must also include our male allies in the “circle” and recognize the opportunity for men to mentor female trainees.

My pregnancy coincided with my decision to embark on a career in EP and I found comfort, reassurance, and understanding among my male mentors who also had young children. I was so grateful to feel understood and supported. My mentors, while busy, seem to have a great balance between their passion for EP and time for their family. They are also incredibly efficient and understand that efficiency means leaving on time and spending time with their loved ones. Despite this, the quality of teaching and my EP education never suffered. In fact, to this day, I reach out to the same mentor for advice on everything from arrhythmia mechanisms to statistics – and even toddler tantrums. 

In a way, the shortage of women in EP also motivated my career choice. While I continue to cultivate a passion for arrhythmias, devices, and ablations, I also strive to support a culture change for women in cardiology and ways to encourage females embarking on family planning and trainees with young families. I look forward to addressing emerging issues of ensuring adequate parental leave, promoting gender parity, facilitating flexible working arrangements, and more opportunities to help women to enter the field.

It is my greatest hope that women see an opportunity for a gratifying and fulfilling career in EP. I hope to be an advocate and a source of support for women and parents who make that choice. Believe in what you are capable of and let’s send a shock to the EP system.

Thank you to the entire electrophysiology department at Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia for being the inspiration for this article and a special mention to Isaac Whitman, MD, a true and relentless “he-for-she.”

Anne-Sophie Lacharite-Roberge, MD, is a fellow at Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia.

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