Career Development | Work, Life and Balance of a Cardiology Fellow

This article was authored by Sahar Taqui, MD, general cardiology fellow, PGY-5, at the Oregon Health and Science University.

As a cardiology fellow, I take every opportunity to mentor and guide other women in medicine and to help inspire them towards cardiology. I carry this responsibility just as seriously as I carry the responsibilities of performing urgent echocardiograms on crashing cardiogenic shock patients, interrogating pacemakers of patients with ventricular tachycardia and reading electrocardiograms that invariably lead to ST-elevation myocardial infarction code activation in the middle of the night.

How far are we from a day where we no longer need a group for “women in cardiology” and women cardiologists are simply cardiologists? ACC’s 2016 Professional Life Survey found that “women make up half of all medical school graduates and nearly half of internal medicine specialists, yet they represent less than one-fifth of adult cardiologists.” I often wonder what causes this attrition rate and why women tend to avoid this field. While the disparity in compensation and the lack of women in leadership within cardiology did not deter me from pursuing this field, I wonder how many women end up being subconsciously discouraged by this reality.

It is common knowledge that a cardiology fellow’s life is more work, less life and no balance. The hours spent working in the hospital along with those spent outside reading articles and guidelines or making presentations take up the majority of one’s waking hours. However, the experiences gained during these years of training tend to enrich and influence one’s practice for years to come. These experiences have ultimately strengthened my decision to pursue cardiology, teaching me the most important lesson of my medical training: “learning is repetition,” and it certainly is exponential.

Cardiology enables practitioners to interact with the sickest of the patients and take a front passenger seat or occasionally the driver seat throughout the patients’ road to recovery. Witnessing the lives saved from prescribing an appropriate medication, activating the cardiac catheterization lab or aiding with a heart transplant is humbling, but it is also saliently rewarding.  I would love to share these experiences with other women in medicine and aspire to remove as many barriers as I can from the way of women considering the pursuit of cardiology.

As I reflect upon my fellowship experiences thus far, I wonder how I can contribute to availing more women the same chances and opportunities in pursuing a career in cardiology.