#ChooseCardiology: Abigail M. Khan, MD

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Why did you choose adult congenital cardiology?

My two favorite rotations in fellowship were echocardiography and heart failure. During heart failure rotation, I was more interested in chronic disease management than I was in acute care. When I did my adult congenital heart disease (ACHD) rotation, I found it to be the perfect blend of imaging, hemodynamics and ambulatory care. I was also drawn to the opportunity to work with a population underserved by our usual care models. The field was growing and changing, and I found that appealing.

What do you like best about adult congenital cardiology?

There are many opportunities to be innovative. We do not have a lot of data to guide our management decisions. Thankfully, this is changing. However, it means that I spend a lot of time thinking about how adult and pediatric paradigms apply – or don't apply – to ACHD. This requires creativity and "out of the box" thinking, given the paucity of data and the heterogeneity of the population.

In ACHD, we form close bonds with our patients. This is a population that has been dealing with chronic disease and its consequences for their entire lives. While our patients face many challenges, they also display remarkable resilience. I find this inspiring.

Who was a role model or mentor for you?

Yuli Y. Kim, MD, FACC, who runs the ACHD program at the University of Pennsylvania where I did my fellowship, is probably the number one reason that I chose ACHD. She showed me a vision of success that I could really believe in and get excited about. From Kim, I learned how to be an excellent clinician and patient advocate. I was inspired by her leadership work. Leadership is a big focus of my career now, and I don't think I would have chosen that path without Kim.

I cannot emphasize the importance of a good mentor enough. Later in my fellowship, Sara L. Partington, MD, joined the practice, and was an immensely important clinical and personal mentor. Finally, I also benefited from the mentorship of Bonnie Ky, MD, FACC, who taught me so much about hard work and belief in myself. From her, I learned that there really are no limits on the success that we can have as female cardiologists.

Would you choose it again?

It was the right choice for me. That said, the training is long. There are challenges to practicing ACHD. It is important that people pick the field for the right reasons.

Is practicing this area of cardiology what you expected?

Yes. I knew I wanted to stay in academics, and I knew that advocating for recognition of my field and my patients would be part of the job. In ACHD, you have to vocal and entrepreneurial.

What advice would you give women considering congenital cardiology?

You have to be comfortable making decisions without data. You have to be comfortable with the fact that ACHD exists in the space between pediatrics and adult. We have accountability to both, and sometimes feel like we belong to neither. My division has been incredibly supportive of ACHD. I am lucky though because this is not always the case. If you are a person who enjoys making your own path, this is the field for you.

This article was authored by Abigail M. Khan, MD, cardiologist at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, OR. This article is part of the ACC WIC Section's #ChooseCardiology series, where women in residency, fellowship and early career are encouraged to share why they would choose cardiology again.