Career Development | How to Position Yourself on the Leadership Track

This article was authored by Sarah Alexander, MD, a cardiology fellow, PGY-3 at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, IL.

The most recent ACC Women in Cardiology (WIC) Section Leadership Workshop was a day of networking and sessions geared to encourage, inspire and equip women cardiologists as to how to navigate a career in cardiology for both personal success and satisfaction. The event kicked off with dinner at ACC’s Heart House in Washington, DC, and a keynote address by Janet Wright, MD, FACC, executive director of Million Hearts.

I appreciated her openness in recapping her career and beginnings; starting from her childhood in Arkansas, she introduced us to the people and experiences that helped shape her both personally and professionally. Dr. Wright left us with three pieces of advice: follow your gut (which comes from knowing who you are), totally commit (have a single mindedness as to what you care about) and 'not too much solo' (work as part of a team and surround yourself with good people). As a fellow in training, I am intrigued by how one achieves professional success while maintaining a personal life.

During the second day’s sessions, which involved panel discussions and breakout sessions, I was impressed by the candor and sincerity of the women in attendance – both those early and advanced career participants. I think many of us were reminded that we are not alone in the challenges faced and have similar fears and hopes. Several topics were discussed including challenges faced by female physicians in leadership roles, strengths that female physicians bring to leadership and how one can position herself to attain leadership positions and achieve career goals.

Memorable sound bytes that resonated with me during the workshop included, “The glass ceiling exists because women don’t step up;” and “Say yes to everything until you get to a position where you can say no.”

How do we begin the process of developing leadership skills and professional power? How do we begin the process of developing leadership skills and professional power? Here are a few points emphasized at the workshop:

  • Begin at the local level by becoming involved with your state chapter of the ACC. Contact your state liaison and/or state governor to learn how you can get involved.
  • Become involved with advocacy issues.
  • Invest yourself in one or two things that you are passionate about and be thoughtful about your time; don’t spread yourself thin.
  • Establish yourself clinically. Build your capital and establish yourself as a sound cardiologist so that you have something to bring to the table.
  • Establish a short term and a long term plan. Identify mentors, nurture professional relationships and participate in professional organizations.

I, and I'm sure the others who attended, have much to think about after the workshop. I look forward to future discussions and meeting other WIC members at upcoming meetings.

Join the WIC Section at ACC’s 2016 Legislative Conference for a Leadership Workshop on Sept. 11 from 11:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. ET. Register to attend the conference on