Chapter Engagement | WIC Indiana Chapter: A New Start and Mentorship

This article was authored by Pantila Vanichakarn, MD, FACC, WIC Indiana Champion and cardiologist at Indiana University Health in Carmel.

Moving to a new city can be challenging. Being a female cardiologist working in a large practice group consisting of over 40 cardiologists makes it even more challenging. There are only five other female cardiologists in our group and because everyone is busy, we do not get to spend much time with each other.

As an early career faculty member, I am in search of my “niche” and career path. I attended the WIC meeting at the ACC’s Annual Scientific Session (ACC.17) earlier this year and it really opened my eyes to how important it is to receive mentorship from other female cardiologists. When I returned to Indiana, my relatively new home, I felt motivated to revive our WIC Indiana Chapter.

While I search for my own mentors, I act as a mentor for many fellows in training, residents and medical students. It has been my calling to pay it forward and recognize the importance of mentorship.

I met Kathleen Morris, DO, during the cardiology consult rotation at Eskenazi Hospital. She was the chief medical resident at the time and was also pursuing a career in cardiology. Unofficially, I have been in touch with Kathleen throughout the rest of her chief resident year to help guide her on her career path. After ACC.17, however, I knew it was time to make it official and help reinvigorate the WIC Indiana Chapter, where women can help guide other women through their careers in cardiology. 

Kathleen recently began her cardiology fellowship at St. Vincent’s Medical Center. I asked her to give us her perspective on starting a fellowship program.

Kathleen Morris, DO:

As I practice performing an echocardiogram on a patient, she asks, “Is there something wrong with my heart? Can you tell me?” My mind starts spinning; am I competent enough to answer this particular question? After all, I am only one day into my cardiology fellowship. However, I was introduced as a “heart doctor in training.” I see a pericardial effusion, but is it large? It does seem circumferential around the heart. Is it hemodynamically significant? Can I answer this question any better than when I was a medicine resident just a couple days prior? I thought that I could better answer this question by pulling up her medical chart to review her clinical story. What is the inpatient medical record system again? What is my log in? I take a deep breath and think that I am certainly back at the beginning of training.

It is strange to transition from being a competent, confidant physician in the world of general internal medicine to feeling like a medical student again in the cardiology world as you learn to interpret an echocardiogram. It turns out that it is more complicated than your basic knowledge when you pulled up the echocardiogram images as a resident. I find myself at the bottom of the ladder again with the need to slowly pull myself up. Many people also have an additional layer of learning a new city (let alone a new health care system) and internal medicine boards. I am fortunate that I completed a fourth-year chief resident position within the same city and do not have these additional layers.

However, day-by-day, I am reminded of my passion for the world of cardiology. After I get my two kids into bed at night, I am excited to watch a video to learn more about diastolic dysfunction or review basic management of acute coronary syndrome. As a female cardiologist in training, I also have the additional layer of work-life balance with kids and being a woman within a male-dominated field. However, I am fortunate to have the support of my fellow female cardiologists through the ACC Indiana WIC Chapter. With this support system, I know that in time I will feel confidant to interpret the hemodynamic significance of my patient’s pericardial effusion on echocardiogram.

With the help of ACC President Mary Norine Walsh, MD, FACC, the WIC Indiana Chapter Meet and Greet took place on Aug. 16. Sixteen women from all over Indiana attended the first event!