Special WIC Section Panel Looks at How to Start a Heart Center For Women

Several female cardiologists shared first-hand insights into the economic, political and social barriers associated with opening and running women's heart centers and health clinics, as part of a special panel discussion held Saturday in the Women in Cardiology Lounge.

The panel, moderated by Nanette Wenger, MD, of Emory University School of Medicine, offered opportunities for women to learn from each other about what it takes to start a heart center for women. All seven panel participants were challenged at one time or another with proving the worth of their centers, convincing their peers of the advantages, and also reaching out to the female community to encourage different patient demographics.

While some of the women on the panel had designated budgets for marketing their heart centers, others used word-of-mouth and self-made publications to promote the resources their centers offered. "This has truly been a grassroots effort," said Gina Lundberg, MD, of Emory Heart and Vascular Institute. "I am primarily focused on clinical community outreach to women." In Lundberg's case, she's spoken to a number of groups – including book clubs and community centers – about getting the resources they need for heart healthy nutrition, exercise and prevention.

Noel Bairey Merz, MD, director of the Barbra Streisand Women's Heart Center at Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute, was able to solidify the success of her women's center by tracking the ancillary revenue that the center generated. This included any new patients who sought out clinicians at that center and any tests clinicians ordered for a referred patient.

When Sharonne Hayes, MD, associate professor at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, first floated the idea of a women's heart clinic, she found that dispelling her colleagues' fears of taking away patients was her greatest challenge. In her talk, Hayes encouraged others to frame their clinics as ‘centers of excellence' that allow for collaboration, research and community outreach. Martha Gulati, MD, MS, of the Ohio State University Medical Center's division of cardiovascular medicine, emphasized the importance of becoming partners with these directors and colleagues. She noted that not only does it allow for open discussion and collaboration, but it also makes them more likely to refer patients to the women's center. Another approach that Jennifer Mieres, MD, of the Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine, found successful was to form a steering committee of all departments that would be involved in the women's center, include rheumatology, orthopedic surgery and radiology.

Lynne Braun, PhD, a nurse practitioner in the Rush Heart Center for Women, also utilizes this interdisciplinary approach, with physicians referring patients to her for prevention needs. She then refers patients to the on-site dietician or to other specialists within the center's network.

"Enlist the support of those outside of [cardiology]," added Nieca Goldberg, MD, of the NYU Langone Joan H. Tisch Center for Women's Health. "[Clinicians at women's centers] really have to take care of the whole woman."

Keywords: Academic Medical Centers, Academies and Institutes, Community-Institutional Relations, Female, Marketing, Nurse Practitioners, Nutritionists, Orthopedics, Physicians, Research, Rheumatology, Specialization, Women's Health

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