#ChooseCardiology: Rajeshwari Nayak, MD

Rajeshwari Nayak, MD

Why did you choose cardiology?

Ever since I was a child, I have loved the heart. I have always thought cardiologists are exceptionally versatile physicians who are still being specialists in the best sense. Happily for me, I feel that I fit in well with this guild and that I have found "my people" in the world of medicine.

What do you like best about cardiology?

I love the thrill of challenging emergency and interventional cases and the moments when I know my skills helped push back against imminent catastrophe. Indeed, even structural diseases of the heart are now routinely treated by percutaneous intervention with excellent outcomes, which speaks to the rich tradition of innovation and research in interventional cardiology. The advent of vascular robotics is also a promising new technology poised to transform the practice of interventional cardiology and provide extra protection to the physician.

Who has been your role model or mentor?

My approach to clinical medicine is a mélange of influences from the many fine and accomplished mentors at whose feet I sat in my years as a fledgling cardiologist. Many are no longer with us today but their words of wisdom echo in my memory. For example, I am inspired by Sivaramakrishna Iyer Padmavati, MD, one of India's first female cardiologists, a preternaturally talented clinician and a gifted teacher whose protégés have gone on to become leaders in the field. In my own department at Apollo, Chennai, there are many stalwarts who have inspired me, and I strive to emulate their examples in all facets of my practice.

Why did you choose this area of cardiology?

I have always had a special interest in heart failure management. As interventional cardiologists, we are able to give a very impressive outcome to really sick patients, and the immediate gratification of life in the cath lab is hard to pass up. It never ceases to amaze me that we can perform these highly involved, high acuity procedures through a nick in the wrist and achieve spectacular outcomes. I also cherish caring for my patients long after they have left the cath suite. To have a patient in his or her most anxious moments place trust in my judgement and abilities is a unique privilege.

What advice would you give women considering cardiology?

Women are increasingly represented in cardiology and have contributed substantially to the field. I can think of few specialties as exciting and with as much promise for talented young women. Remember that work-life balance is not a function of the number of hours you spend outside the hospital. Your time will be a scarce and therefore precious resource that you must devote to the people and activities you value the most while making peace with falling short of perfection more often than not.

Would you choose cardiology again?

Yes, without a doubt!

Is there anything you would like to add?

An aging population, changing lifestyles and other risk factors mean that the global burden of cardiovascular disease is substantial. New insights into disease mechanisms and pathophysiology from research, novel therapeutic agents, personalized medicine, gene therapy, and robotics are transforming cardiovascular medicine in exciting and unpredictable ways. We want the best and brightest young female physicians to join our ranks and be inheritors of a rich legacy.

This article was authored by Rajeshwari Nayak, MD, senior consultant cardiologist at Apollo Hospitals in Chennai, India.