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In Cardiology, It's Still A Man's World


Half of all medical students in the U.S. are women. But there’s one specialty they rarely go into: cardiology. Yesterday on Think, told Lauren Silverman talked with a panel of women heart doctors about why there are so few female cardiologist, how that affects patient care and what can be done to even out the numbers.

The KERA Interview

Dr. Cara East, cardiologist with Baylor University Medical Center, on …

… why few women specialize:

“One can go into internal medicine and be finished with one’s training in three years. If you choose a specialty like cardiology you’re adding two to three years more to that … If you’re talking about surgical specialties, you’re talking about five to six years on top of a residency, on top of five to six years of medical school. So I think training, the length of time that training sort of culls out people that want to go ahead and get their lives started.”

… networking being an obstacle:

“If we have mainly men in field networking with one another, they’re still going to come up with ideas with one another. They’re going to recommend each other. They may be viewing each other’s papers. And if women are out of that network. You tend to be out of that opportunities.”

Dr. Nina Asrani, cardiologist with Texas Health Fort Worth, on …

… why women have higher rates of heart disease:

“Historically, we tended to underestimate the prevalence of heart disease in women and so the medical field is somewhat complicate in that. Initially, we used to attribute chest pain and those sorts of things to anxiety or to other factors in women and we were less cognizant of the fact that women also had heart disease.”

…. the value of male mentors:  

“I don’t think that mentorship has to be woman to woman. I think we’ve tended to underestimate the ability of men to provide valuable mentorship to women in cardiology. And I think we also underestimate, especially in the younger generations, the balance of family and work is important to our male colleagues as well. Sometimes, I think especially as younger women, we’re a little bit leery of bringing up that topic with older male colleagues for fear of them judging us or thinking that we’re not as serious about our work. But in fact I’ve had many meaningful relationships and a lot of great advice from my male colleagues and mentors as well.”