#ChooseCardiology: Kyla Lara-Breitinger, MD

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FEATURE | In medical school, I struggled with finding a career path I felt passionate about. I had enjoyed most of my clinical rotations but I did not have the "aha moment."

While rotating through cardiology consults, I met Annabelle S. Volgman, MD, FACC, the person I credit for demonstrating that I, too, could one day become a cardiologist and #ChooseCardiology. She took me under her wing.

On one occasion, she made me go to the white board in front of our team and draw out the pressures in the heart despite my lack of knowledge. She pushed me. She involved me in research, and knowing I had no family in the Midwest, hosted me for Thanksgiving. She became not only my career mentor but also my personal mentor. She called me out when my white coat was not pressed or if my dress pants weren't properly hemmed and tailored. She taught me professionalism.

The more I was around her the more I wanted to be just like her.

I could not help but become excited that a prior electrophysiologist who decided to switch gears and focus on women's heart health and prevention wanted to actively include me in her projects. I felt proud that I knew a strong woman who was able to change her career trajectory successfully, maintain the energy and enthusiasm for teaching and mentorship, and remain well-rounded and dedicated to her family.

I moved to New York City for internal medicine residency. Here, I would test whether I wanted to pursue cardiology in a new city and new hospital where the tempo of training is scarcely matched. Taking care of complex patients in New York was challenging and finding mentorship was even more difficult, especially in cardiology.

I craved for a female mentor, however realized quickly that if I wanted to make it in cardiology, I would have to assert myself in pursuing research with tenacity and cast a wide net in seeking mentors.

I was endlessly fortunate that Jonathan L. Halperin, MD, FACC, became an integral part in solidifying my passion in cardiology. His dedication to teaching and mentoring internal medicine residents was humbling. The culmination of having both of these mentors along with my curiosity and love for the pathophysiology solidified my path into cardiology.

I felt proud matching into cardiology fellowship at the Mayo Clinic but was simultaneously terrified of making such a big move without my husband who was still completing his final year of residency in New York, all while in my second trimester of pregnancy. I met my co-fellows and became instantaneously close with all the first-year female fellows (they matched four of us)!

However, during the first few months of fellowship, I felt the urge for a community of female mentorship and collaboration within the department. This is when I met Nanette Kass Wenger, MD, MACC, #TheFaceOfCardiology and pioneer of women's health. She was visiting from Emory to speak at grand rounds about her life's work.

That afternoon, the female fellows had the opportunity to meet her and pick her brain. Our conversation about the importance of bringing women together and creating a safe space to share ideas was the catalyst I needed. I would revamp the #MayoWIC group.

With the tremendous support of the leadership within the department, we held our first #WIC event at a local restaurant. The theme was "How Did I Get Here?" Twenty-five women attended and the female faculty across all advanced subspecialties shared their journeys to their current positions. One journey in particular was highlighted that night.

Mayra E. Guerrero, MD, FACC, shared her humbling journey from Mexico to becoming a leader in mitral implantation of transcatheter valves. I could go on about the female leaders in that room that inspired us but I would run out of room.

We received both professional and personal advice and shared food, laughs and memories. Everyone left feeling inspired and bright eyed, especially the #ACCFIT.

Above all, my journey to cardiology exists because of mentorship, from both women and men. But female mentors within cardiology are so crucial because of stories like mine. In order for young female trainees to #ChooseCardiology, they need to see female mentors as #TheFaceofCardiology.

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This article was authored by Kyla Lara-Breitinger, MD, Fellow in Training (FIT) at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.