An Advocate For Women in Cardiology: An Interview with Robert A. Harrington

Robert A. Harrington, MD, MACC, is an interventional cardiologist, professor of medicine and chairman of the Department of Medicine at Stanford University. In a recent interview with Hena Patel, MD, a Fellow in Training at Rush University in Chicago, Harrington discusses gender disparities in cardiology and his involvement with the ACC’s Women in Cardiology (WIC) Section.

As the first man to become a member of WIC, what motivated you to join?

After I gave a presentation on the principles of compensation in a department of medicine during ACC.16, Claire S. Duvernoy, MD, FACC, chair of the WIC Section Leadership Council, asked if I would consider joining. She noted the group needed men who are leaders and that my points on equality and fairness regarding compensation were the type of perspectives that would be considered important in WIC discussions. I was honored to join and try to help. Interestingly, my four daughters have been impressed that this is one of the true honors that I have had in medicine!

How has your involvement with the WIC Section been received by your male colleagues?

Not as many of my colleagues know about the issues and the group as well as they should. But, ACC leadership, including Richard A. Chazal, MD, FACC, president of the ACC, and C. Michael Valentine, MD, FACC, vice president of the ACC, have been hugely supportive and attended the recent WIC leadership meeting in Washington, DC.

Do you think more men cardiologists will be interested in joining?

They should be interested, as the issues of mentorship, opportunity, fairness, transparency and equality are critically important ones to our specialty, regardless of gender. As a specialty, we also need to better understand why we are not attracting the most talented medical residents into the field. Right now, approximately 50 percent of U.S. medical students and 40 – 42 percent of U.S. internal medicine residents are women, yet only 15 – 20 percent of cardiology fellows are women. This is an important issue – to be sure we’re recruiting the best and the brightest into our field.

As a leader in cardiology, you have mentored many successful cardiologists. What do you see as the structure for mentorship for women?

Women and men require much of the same from mentorship: advice, counsel, networking, work-life balance assistance, opportunities, specific assistance with projects, introductions, etc. But women also need women who are role models to emulate. Given the gender realities in academic cardiology, male leaders need to be attentive to what is needed for career growth for women and perhaps even be willing to help a bit more while we all work on the distribution issues.

We need a commitment from male leaders in cardiovascular medicine to be engaged in creating an environment for training, for clinical practice and for research that is inclusive of all those who want to bring their talents to the field. We also need to create opportunities for women in our subspecialties to join leadership ranks. I suggest that more men get involved in mentoring women in cardiology, supporting women in leadership, and in becoming members of activities such as ACC’s WIC Section.

Keywords: ACC Publications, Cardiology Magazine, Fellowships and Scholarships, Female, Leadership, Mentors, Mentors, Women, Working

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