Cardio-Oncology | Bénédicte Lefebvre, MD


1. Please describe your educational and training background.

Medical School: McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Residency: Internal Medicine Residency at McGill University
Fellowship(s): General Cardiology at McGill University, Advanced Cardiac Imaging at the University of Pennsylvania, and currently completing a Cardio-Oncology Fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania.

2. What are your future career plans and/or goals?

I will be staying at the University of Pennsylvania as an attending physician for Cardio-Oncology, Echocardiography, and Cardiac MRI.

3. Please describe a typical day in your cardiology subspecialty.

Cardio-oncology is a diverse field that focuses on many kinds of patients. You can see patients that are childhood cancer survivors undergoing follow-up to ensure that their heart function remains stable post-treatment. There are the patients that have preexisting cardiac problems and now are undergoing cancer treatment and they are followed to optimize their medical therapy for their specific heart condition and ensure that the patient can withstand their cancer treatment. There are also the patients who develop cardiac problems secondary to their cancer treatments and our role is to make sure that they can continue their cancer treatments which can be lifesaving.

Mondays are generally a research day, time where I can focus on my own research projects or prepare for any conference presentations I may be giving. Tuesdays through Friday are general spent in the different attending outpatient clinics where we see patients and review the cases and imaging with attending and patients. During the week there are also many education meetings such as Grand Rounds, Cardio-Oncology rounds (which involves going over interesting cases with the cardio-oncology attendings), and monthly early morning rounds with outside institutions to go over interesting cases with other local hospitals. Throughout the week, we are also covering any inpatient consultations pertaining to the field of cardio-oncology.

4. What is the most challenging aspect of your career path?

I think the most challenging part is trying to decide which path is the right one for you. I feel like there is always some doubt about whether you are making the right choice when it comes to fellowship. It's important to make sure you love what you do because it is a long road.

5. How did you identify your mentor(s) and develop a successful mentor/mentee relationship?

I was lucky enough to have a few mentors help me along my journey. In Montreal, I had the help of two cardiologists that were very involved in the imaging community and echocardiography. They were very supportive, especially with my move to the United States for training. They helped me find my fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania and were very helpful with writing letters and making phone calls. I was also fortunate to find mentors at the University of Pennsylvania. They have also been extremely welcoming, helpful, encouraging, and strong advocates and I am extremely lucky to have been offered an attending position.

You will need to have mentors to help you on your journey. You may even have multiple mentors that help you in different areas like research, clinically, in professionalism and even personally. Developing the mentor/mentee relationship does take some time. The best thing to do is to show interest and ask questions. As you get more comfortable and the relationship evolves you can ask for career advice or to get involved with research projects or certain organizations. The main thing is to show interest.

6. What advice would you give residents interested in pursuing cardiology?

If you really love what you're doing, people are going to see it and want to work with you. Get involved, whether it's in education or with research projects. Try and build your interest in the field as much as possible. Find a mentor that can help you accomplish your goals.

7. What advice do you have for women and/or underrepresented populations in medicine who are interested in pursuing cardiology?

The specialty is changing, and more and more women are in the field working in cardiology and in leadership positions. There is a big movement, especially in the last few years, to get women in the forefront. There are a lot of organizations such as the different "Women in Cardiology" at institutions where women get together and discuss different topic pertinent to women in the field. There are even certain places where there are more women in cardiology then men. There aren't many places yet where that is true, and it is taking time, but you can see the changes. Women are now doing Electrophysiology or Interventional Cardiology, which are very male driven fields with long hours and radiation. And with the exposure to radiation there is always fear but there has been a push for protection. There's also been a movement regarding breastfeeding, with guidelines for women who wish to breastfeed during fellowship. I do not believe there are any limitations for women now, and I would encourage all women if they really want to do cardiology there shouldn't be a reason for you not to pursue it.