BCS Women in Cardiology Network
The British Cardiovascular Society is committed to increasing the number of women training in cardiology and to promote the participation of female cardiologists at local and national level.
Promoting women in cardiology; aims of the BCS
To develop new initiatives to attract female doctors to cardiology in the UK
To work with other cardiology societies to identify and address reasons for gender inequality
To champion changes in working practice which promote equity for male and female cardiologists and trainees
To provide contemporary educational resources and support re issues relevant to women in cardiology
To create a community of female cardiology trainees/consultants across the UK
Role Models Within Cardiology Sub-Specialties
Below are profiles of successful women in all cardiology sub-specialties. Click on each section to read more about their career paths and if you have further questions, or would like to connect with one of them (either local to you or involved in a specific sub-specialty) please use the contact form and the BCS will put you in touch.
Prof Dana Dawson
"Stumbling blocks can all be overcome with perseverance in large doses. Never give up if you really want to achieve a goal."
I qualified in medicine in University of Medicine “Grigore T. Popa” in Iasi, Romania. I completed my MRCP with the Royal College of Physicians and then read for a D. Phil in Cardiovascular Medicine at Merton College, University of Oxford. I trained in Cardiovascular Medicine in Edinburgh, Oxford and London in the UK and at the University of Virginia in the USA. I am a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of London and Edinburgh and a Fellow of the European Society of Cardiology. I joined the University of Aberdeen in 2010. Here I established a clinical and preclinical research group as well as being an active member of the NHS Acute Cardiology service at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary. In addition to the research I describe below my clinical cardiology role brings expertise to the Advanced Cardiac Imaging service and I actively participate in the on call rota of the acute NHS Cardiology service.
My research focuses on several pivotal clinical questions, such as acute stress induced (takotsubo) cardiomyopathy, insulin-resistance modulation in health and diabetes, the influence of exercise training programmes in cardiomyopathies and unmasking heart failure hidden under the umbrella of other diseases as well as the novel domain of cardio-oncology. Overall I aim to find mechanistic pathways of disease in order to understand how to best target therapies.
My greatest achievement so far has been bridging the gap between the NHS clinical cardiology service and the University, which is perhaps the key to success for a clinical researcher and undoubtedly the biggest strength in Aberdeen. Notably, however, this would have not been possible without the help of all my NHS Consultant colleagues who are instrumental in all our research achievements. One could have not wished for a better, more collegiate work environment.
Outside of work, I have two children aged 17 and 11 who keep me busy. I am very involved in sporting and outdoors activities in the beautiful and scenic North of Scotland.
Dr Sarah Bowater
"The things I love about my job are the patients who are the true 'pioneers' of congenital surgery and also the team based approach that we have within our unit."
I have been a consultant cardiologist at the Queen Elizabeth hospital, Birmingham, since October 2014. I subspecialise in adult congenital heart disease and lead on our advanced disease and pulmonary hypertension programme within this field. I also continue to be part of the general cardiology on call rota. Prior to my consultant post I was a trainee within the West Midlands. I am a less than full time consultant and work 4 days a week.
The things I love about my job are the patients who are the true 'pioneers' of congenital surgery and also the team based approach that we have within our unit. I work within a team of four consultants and we are all very supportive of each other both professionally and personally.
During my training I completed an MD within the field of ACHD. I was awarded a BHF fellowship and completed this between my core and subspecialty training. Alongside my clinical work I am active in education and training. I have been the training programme director for cardiology in the West Midlands since 2017 and chair the training committee. I am also the LTFT speciality lead for cardiology and cardiothoracic surgery in the region. Since 2019 I have been a regional advisor for the Royal College of Physicians.
Outside of work I have two daughters who are at primary school and a husband who works full time. After a couple of years of being a consultant I actively reviewed my job plan to allow me a better work life balance. It doesn’t always work but on the whole I feel that I have a good balance. Working with the right colleagues is vital for this.
Dr Samantha Fitzsimmons
"If you are considering a career in Cardiology or ACHD please do not be put off by the negative opinions of others, do your own research and believe you can succeed."
I am currently working full time as a Consultant Cardiologist in Adult Congenital Heart Disease (ACHD) at the University of Southampton Hospital. Further sub speciality interests include obstetric cardiology and pulmonary hypertension associated with ACHD. I am enthusiastic about teaching and therefore hold an Honorary Senior Clinical Lecturer role with the University.
I am also a proud mother of 3 young children, who are my greatest achievements but never asked about on my CV or at a job interview. Despite advice from an early age that “I couldn’t apply to medical school because I was female”, plus I was only to consider Cardiology at ST3 if I was not a “baby producing machine” and I was advised to consider “1 or 2 children at the most”, I continued to achieve my own family and my own career. That said, it is equally as important to admit at times managing both your family and your career can be physically and emotionally demanding. I know I carry an immense amount of daily guilt with me, when I am not with my family I think I should be and when I am not at work I think I should be.
If you are considering a career in Cardiology or ACHD please do not be put off by the negative opinions of others, do your own research and believe you can succeed.
Dr Joanna Lim
"Good teamwork is key and throughout my career in ACHD, I have found my colleagues to be highly-dedicated, caring, inspiring individuals."
I graduated from Oxford University in 2006 and completed my junior doctor training in London and Bristol before returning to the Oxford Deanery to train in general Cardiology. I undertook higher specialist training on the Pan-London Adult Congenital Heart Disease (ACHD) Rotation from 2014-2019, completing fellowships at the Royal Brompton Hospital, St Thomas’ Hospital, St Bartholomew’s Hospital and Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children. I was appointed as a Consultant Cardiologist specialising in ACHD at the Oxford Heart Centre in 2019.
My job involves a mixture of inpatient and outpatient work (MDTs, echo and lots of clinics) and I really enjoy it. Our ACHD service forms part of the Oxford-Southampton Congenital Cardiac Network and I particularly enjoy the interaction this affords with Paediatric and Adult Congenital Cardiologists, Surgeons, Nurses and Physiologists across the region.
During my higher specialist training I had my 3 children (aged 6, 4 and 2 at time of writing!). Since having children I have always worked 4 days a week, as has my husband. This is a great balance for us and I find this arrangement very rewarding as a mother and as a doctor (although it is admittedly quite exhausting at times!).
ACHD is a brilliant, constantly evolving speciality. Good teamwork is key and throughout my career in ACHD, I have found my colleagues to be highly-dedicated, caring, inspiring individuals. There are excellent teaching opportunities and I have recently established a regional congenital echo teaching programme. Providing lifelong care for this important, expanding group of patients is challenging, both from a physiological and psychological perspective, but endlessly fascinating and incredibly rewarding.
Dr Clare Hammond
"Working in the community is extremely rewarding and is definitely the way forward for as many services as possible."
Having completed my medical school training at Birmingham University, I completed my HO and SHO posts at QEH/ Selly Oak and Sandwell. At that stage I was unable to decide which speciality I wanted to pursue. I knew exactly what I didn’t want to do. The cardiology registrar at Sandwell, had worked at Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital as a SHO and when she noticed an advertisement for a cardiology training post, she suggested I applied. So I did, I was appointed and moved to Liverpool two months later. That was December 1996 and I’ve been here ever since.
Although I really enjoyed coronary intervention, I preferred sleep and so I completed dual accreditation and became a cardiologist at a busy local DGH in 2005. I learned cardiac CT, helping to set up the service with my radiology colleagues; was heavily involved with training and education; became the trust’s heart failure lead and developed a very rudimentary cardio-oncology service.
However, after 10 years I wanted a change and was able to return to LHCH as a community cardiologist. I love my job, although I know many of my colleagues would hate what I do! I work as part of a team, providing cardiology clinics in local primary care resource centres. We have all the usual diagnostics available in a one-stop service, enabling patients in a deprived area of Merseyside to access care more easily. I also support three local community heart failure teams. I have no inpatient work or on-call commitment, which significantly improved my work-life balance. I have the time to pursue other interests in education and mentoring.
Working in the community is extremely rewarding and is definitely the way forward for as many services as possible.
Dr Ashley Nisbet
Dr Ashley Nisbet graduated with commendation from the University of Aberdeen medical school in 2000 and commenced training in Cardiology in Glasgow in 2003. She was awarded a British Heart Foundation Scholarship in 2004 to research the electrophysiology of the mammalian atrioventricular node, and was awarded a PhD from the University of Glasgow in 2008. She began subspecialty training in Cardiac Electrophysiology in 2010 at the Golden Jubilee National Hospital in Glasgow. She then spent two years in fellowship in Cardiac Electrophysiology and Pacing under the tutelage of internationally renowned Professor Jon Kalman in Royal Melbourne Hospital, Australia.
Dr Nisbet returned to the UK for her Consultant appointment at the Bristol Heart Institute in 2014. Dr Nisbet also holds an honorary senior clinical lecturer post at the University of Bristol and research interests include arrhythmia mechanisms and arrhythmias in congenital heart disease. Clinical work is focused on catheter ablation of complex cardiac arrhythmias, with particular expertise in ablation of complex atrial arrhythmias including atrial fibrillation and arrhythmias in adults with congenital heart disease, as well ablation of ventricular tachycardia. Interests also include assessment and treatment of patients and families affected by inherited cardiac arrhythmias. She is the Cardiology Training Programme Director for Severn Deanery.
When not at work, she is a busy mum of two daughters and a dedicated “cheer mum” supporting her eldest who competes in All Star Cheer at national and international level.
Dr Aaisha Opel
"I do face many day to day challenges that many others do not as I am a single mother and those quite different to my male counterparts. I am keen that current NHS culture is broken to understand and accept these, hence allowing a true work/life balance..."
I am a Consultant Cardiologist and Electrophysiologist working in London. Primarily, I would like to say that I am a mummy and being a consultant is what I do to earn a living!
I subspecialty trained at St Bartholomew’s/ Barts Heart Centre and have been working as a consultant since 2017, initially at the Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS trust. As an electrophysiologist, I like the variability in my work; treating all ages, acute to chronic conditions and sometimes offering a cure. Electrophysiology remains a male dominated field with few role models; I promote gender integration as women and men bring different skills, often have similar family considerations although the challenges and responsibilities faced by women are different. I am a mentor and this is a role that I enjoy very much.
I undertook research in the form of a PhD; this was a basic science project where I tried to figure out one reason why atrial fibrillation may occur. I was awarded the Academy of Medical Science Clinical Scientist in Training award form my work and was runner up in two young investigator competitions. Throughout my training, I was trainee representative on several councils including Heart Rhythm UK/ British Heart Rhythm Society, Specialist Advisory Committee in Cardiology, KBA panel and BJCA. I thoroughly enjoy teaching and training, leadership and management hence developing services for the betterment of my department and patients, one of which has won several awards.
I am mummy to a vibrant young daughter, who is my priority. I do face many day to day challenges that many others do not as I am a single mother and those quite different to my male counterparts. I am keen that current NHS culture is broken to understand and accept these, hence allowing a true work/life balance; I do believe that this will make our entire workforce stronger and encourage high quality individuals to join us! This is of paramount importance.
Dr Merzaka Lazdam
Dr Merzaka Lazdam is a Cardiology Consultant with subspecialty interest in Cardiac Electrophysiology and Device Therapy at Glenfield Hospital in Leicester. She previously worked as a Locum Consultant Cardiologist at the Golden Jubilee Hospital and the Royal Infirmary in Glasgow for a year. She completed specialist training in Cardiology at the East of England Deanery and sub-specialist training in Cardiac Electrophysiology at Papworth Hospital and an Electrophysiology Fellowship at Glenfield Hospital. She was awarded a DPhil in Cardiovascular Medicine from Oxford University funded by NIHR BRC.
Most of her time is spent in cardiac rhythm management with general cardiology commitments on the cardiac wards and out of hour on-call. She carries out a variety of invasive cardiac procedures including insertion of cardiac implantable electronic devices and catheter ablation for simple and complex cardiac arrhythmias like atrial fibrillation, ventricular tachycardia and arrhythmias in patients with adult congenital heart disease using different electro-anatomical mapping systems.
Dr Lindsey Tilling
"I believe working practices are changing and improving, but we really do need a network of women who can share their experiences, and support trainees to achieve their goals."
I became a consultant at the Royal Berkshire hospital in Reading in 2016. I have an interest in heart failure, cardiomyopathy and device therapy. I chose this subspecialty because of the variety of patients and presentations, the multidisciplinary nature of the job, a chance to develop highly specialised practical skills, and the broad impact I believe good heart failure management can have within the population.
No two days are the same; one day I can be counselling an elderly patient about the likely prognostic benefit of resynchronisation therapy, another can be discussing the merits of genetic screening with a parent who has cardiomyopathy, and a third could be arranging referral for cardiac transplant assessment to someone who has reached the ceiling of medical therapy. I have recently extended my interests to include cardio-obstetric medicine. I have frequently found myself caring for young patients with cardiomyopathy who become pregnant, and pregnant patients who develop cardiomyopathy and require surveillance after delivery, and wanted to explore this area further.
I trained in London, and did a PhD at St Thomas’ hospital in endothelial dysfunction. I went on to do two fellowships, firstly in heart failure and then in cardiac rhythm management. I had two children during my training, and worked less than full time (LTFT) for the last 4 years. I did not feel comfortable asking to work LTFT,- women are a minority in cardiology, there are very few training in devices, and at that time at least, even fewer working LTFT. Whilst not encountering resistance, I did not feel supported in my choice, I had no mentors, and I found it very difficult to speak up for myself. I put myself under enormous pressure to be fully present at work, get home for bedtime, and have a home-cooked casserole in the fridge. I believe working practices are changing and improving, but we really do need a network of women who can share their experiences, and support trainees to achieve their goals.
Exposure to the various subspecialties within cardiology is variable for medical students and junior doctors with many female students reporting;
“I didn’t think I could do that, or "I’ve never seen a female consultant in that specialty”.
Dr Kate Gatenby
"I'm extremely lucky to work with a team of amazing colleagues who have supported me throughout my career."
I'm Kate, originally a slightly nomadic northerner who is now settled in Leeds after training in Newcastle and completing cardiology training in West Yorkshire. I'd originally wanted to be a geriatrician and came to the Leeds General Infirmary in 2005 for 6 months to do a bit of cardiology before applying to what was then an NTN in geriatrics. I'd always enjoyed cardiology but had thought that I wasn't anywhere near good enough to be a cardiologist until my supervisor in my senior SHO job, Dr Catherine Dickinson encouraged me to think again. Over the next few months she gently persuaded me that I was good enough and allowed me to gain experience in echo and in the labs. This meant that I was able to apply for a locum registrar job in York and was subsequently appointed a training number in the midst of MTAS in 2007.
I'm now a consultant in heart failure and echo at the Leeds general infirmary. I also am part of the obstetric cardiology team. I'm enjoying the leadership and managerial role as a consultant much more than I thought I would and can easily see myself slipping into some more senior leadership roles later in my career.
I'm married to a GP who I met on a post A levels holiday when I was 18 and have 2 children, my daughter 11 (who is all legs and hair) and my son 5 (a tiny ball of energy).
I'm extremely lucky to work with a team of amazing colleagues who have supported me throughout my career. I love my job and owe a huge amount of that job satisfaction to the encouragement and mentorship the Catherine has provided me with throughout the last 15 years. I'm hugely enthusiastic about nurturing trainees who want to become cardiologists as a way of "paying it forward".
Dr Catriona Bhagra
"I would encourage trainees interested in these sub-specialities within cardiology to seek opportunities both nationally and internationally..."
I was appointed as a consultant cardiologist in 2016, as a joint appointment between Addenbrooke’s and Royal Papworth Hospitals in Cambridge. I am the clinical lead for heart failure at Addenbrooke’s hospital, and have a varied and interesting job working across the two sites, now neighbouring each other on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus.
My interest in maternal medicine was founded as an intercalated medical student, I always knew I wanted to be involved in the management of cardiac disease in pregnancy. I trained in heart failure and MRI in Glasgow and Newcastle-upon-Tyne, before moving to Toronto for a ACHD and pregnancy and heart disease fellowship. There I had the privilege of working alongside a dedicated and research driven team of maternal medicine experts, the opportunities were endless, and my fellowship was the height of my training. Now I work as part of our busy maternal cardiology service at the Rosie and am a council member of the recently established UK Maternal Cardiac Society. I am passionate about improving the care of women with cardiac disease in pregnancy.
I enjoy the variety within my job, my typical week involves both a heart failure and a congenital cardiology clinic, alongside a maternal cardiology clinic once or twice a month, cardiac MRI sessions and MDTs. My on-call weeks encompass all aspects of general cardiology, are incredibly busy and invariably exhausting!
I would encourage trainees interested in these sub-specialities within cardiology to seek opportunities both nationally and internationally, and am happy to be sounding board, or to help guide.
Outside of work I have my hands full looking after our two young children (and my cardiologist husband). I enjoy sport and can often be found in the CrossFit box at 6 am, or pedalling through the streets of Cambridge on the school run. Maintaining balance is never easy and becomes harder with consultant life, but working my fulltime job over 4 days (when not on-call) allows me greater quality, and more family time.
Dr Sacha Bull
"I would strongly encourage women with a passion for the specialty to consider training in cardiology. There will invariably be challenges along the way but the reward in overcoming these is an immensely exciting, multifaceted and fulfilling career."
I am a Consultant Cardiologist at the Royal Berkshire Hospital with an interest in cardiac imaging (cardiac MR, CT and echo), cardiomyopathy and valvular heart disease. In addition to clinical work, I particularly enjoy teaching and hold the roles of specialty tutor and clinical tutor to Oxford graduate medical students.
I trained in the Oxford Deanery, rotating through the Royal Berkshire and the John Radcliffe Hospital. In my fourth clinical training year I was fortunate enough to be offered a BHF clinical research training fellowship, which allowed me to spend 3 happy years working as a research fellow in the Oxford Clinical Magnetic Resonance Imaging Unit. My research focused on aortic valve disease and cardiac MRI. I was awarded a D.Phil from the University of Oxford for this work, as well as the BHVS Young Investigator and the BCS Young Research Worker Runner-up prize. A book I co-authored for medical students during this period was also awarded first prize at the BMA medical book awards. In my penultimate training year,
I was offered the Royal Society of Medicine Ellison-Cliffe Travelling Fellowship which enabled me to take up a clinical fellowship in Cardiac CT, PET and Hybrid imaging using scanners at the forefront of technological development at the University Hospital of Zurich, Switzerland. Following my return to the UK, I spent a brief spell working as a Locum Consultant at Addenbrooke’s Hospital Cambridge before being appointed as a Consultant at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in 2015. I have been working there happily ever since, with a brief break in 2017 to welcome twin girls into the world.
I would strongly encourage women with a passion for the specialty to consider training in cardiology. There will invariably be challenges along the way but the reward in overcoming these is an immensely exciting, multifaceted and fulfilling career.
Dr Laura Dobson
Dr Laura Dobson is a Consultant Cardiologist with a specialist interest in Echocardiography and Valvular Heart Disease at Wythenshawe Hospital in Manchester. She was appointed as a Consultant in 2017 and leads a busy heart valve service, overseeing a nurse led valve surveillance clinic of around 1500 patients and well as recently developing a multidisciplinary complex valve clinic.
In addition to this she is a member of the endocarditis team and supports the structural valve interventional service. Prior to this she completed her Cardiology training in the West Yorkshire Deanery, an Advanced Imaging Fellowship in non-invasive imaging at Monash Heart in Melbourne, Australia and a MD at University of Leeds investigating the use of CMR to assess patients with aortic stenosis. She has been a member of the British Heart Valve Society Council since 2016, firstly as Communications Secretary and more recently as Programme Chair. She is also part of the British Cardiac Society Program Committee, being responsible for organisation of the Imaging Village at the BCS annual conference and was a Fellow of the Inaugural BCS Emerging Leaders Programme in 2019/2020.
She has a keen research interest, having over 50 peer reviewed publications and is local PI for the Easy-AS study investigating the efficacy of early surgery in asymptomatic severe AS and is heavily involved in education, running courses for sonographers and doctors locally at Wythenshawe Hospital.
Outside of work she enjoys CrossFit, running around after her energetic toddler, travelling and skiing.
Dr Shelley Rahman-Haley
"Cardiology is a tough career choice I think, regardless of one’s gender. There is something all-consuming about it. It takes you over. But it is also extremely satisfying and at times great fun. There are also lots of ways to practise cardiology, so it has something for everyone, whatever style of working life you are looking for."
People often ask me why I chose cardiology and I tell them that it chose me! I enjoy being good at what I do, and so I simply gravitated towards the area of medicine which came easiest to – that I seemed to be “naturally” good at. My father was a radiologist, and I often wonder if that sparked my interest in the diagnostic side of medicine – for me, the most interesting thing to do is to work out what is going on. It is often written that the novelist Sir Arthur Conan Doyle based the character of his great detective Sherlock Holmes on a surgeon who had a formidable reputation for reaching conclusions from the most minute observations. I enjoy making those observations and putting everything together to work out the answer to a diagnostic puzzle. My love of making a diagnosis led me naturally to cardiac diagnostics and imaging. I started learning echocardiography when I was an SHO at the West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds. I used to hang around and make a nuisance of myself pestering the echo staff to show me scans and eventually to let me have a go. I ended up doing 6 months as a LAS registrar, a year as a LAT registrar and 3 years in imaging research before getting my NTN in SE Thames deanery. I had reported over 400 transthoracic echoes before I was even a numbered registrar – those were the days!!!
I loved my cardiology training, but definitely suffered from a dearth of female role models or mentors. I was very determined to stick to my imaging guns and aim for a tertiary centre echo post. Looking back now, I think I might have flourished in an academic career but at the time I felt I was not clever enough and I did not have anyone to talk it through with or to advise me.
I was appointed as a service lead in a tertiary centre straight out of registrar training. Looking back, I can say that it was a very tough start to my consultant career, managing very experienced allied professional staff who were much older and more experience than I was. Again, I was disadvantaged when faced with tricky situations by having no mentoring, and I feel strongly about supporting other women at those difficult times in their careers.
My main clinical interests are adult valve disease and cardio-oncology. I enjoy TOE and take pride in performing procedures that the patients actually enjoy (seriously!). As I have become more experienced, I have developed something of a portfolio career involving work for NICE, BCS, Imperial College undergraduate lecturing and working with the Pan-London Imaging Network. I am a slightly restless soul and need this variation to maintain my interest and engagement.
I have two children, both born after I became a consultant. It is not easy trying to combine a full-time career in cardiology with being a mum of young children. Friends often ask me how I do it and I simply say, “I do everything badly!” – whilst this is my stock line to get a laugh, it is true that I do everything less well than I would do it if I were not being pulled in all directions, and this is difficult for me psychologically because in everything I do, I like to give my very best. I manage to enjoy time with the children by joining in with their activities – as a result, I now hold a black belt in tae kwon do!
Cardiology is a tough career choice I think, regardless of one’s gender. There is something all-consuming about it. It takes you over. But it is also extremely satisfying and at times great fun. There are also lots of ways to practise cardiology, so it has something for everyone, whatever style of working life you are looking for.
Dr Shrilla Banerjee
"A Professor of Cardiology once told me that “Cardiology wasn’t quite ready for women”…so shocking, considering that there were already influential female Cardiologists around!! I made it my aim to prove him wrong!"
I am a Consultant in Interventional Cardiology at East Surrey Hospital, Surrey and Sussex NHS Trust. I love my job! I am based in a busy, district general hospital, with both general Cardiology and complex coronary intervention available. I see my patients, from the door, through their procedure and then afterwards too.
I particularly enjoy Coronary Intervention, as we generally fix people. Cardiology in general has that quality, but also diagnostic challenges are present too. I have also worked for the Civil Aviation Authority as a Consultant Advisor, which was a new and interesting challenge.
I decided I wanted to follow Cardiology, from the early days at medical school, but did not have a particularly academic CV. However, I worked hard and published well and completed my MD. I think you have to demonstrate commitment and willing, and never let people put you off. It is hard work, but the rewards are that I really enjoy my work and it is never humdrum or boring. Even after a long, tiring day, the buzz I get is immeasurable.
A Professor of Cardiology once told me that “Cardiology wasn’t quite ready for women”…so shocking, considering that there were already influential female Cardiologists around!! I made it my aim to prove him wrong!
I have two children. I had both my children as a Consultant. In my day, having children and following a career in Intervention were really discouraged. Looking back, I wish that I had had my children earlier.
My main advice regarding work-life balance is to remember what is important to you. I think the World is a much better place for people to make their choices nowadays, and everyone should make their choices to have or not have children, whenever they wish. And also, be super-organised. I make a list every day of all the things I need to do. Usually a lot gets carried over, but you will find that as you become more senior, families expand, demands increase and it is so easy to forget things and get in a muddle.
I am active in our national societies, both BCS and BCIS and think Cardiology is very much a specialty that transcends gender. I strongly recommend this job to anyone.
Dr Shazia Hussain
"We are now at a cross-roads in Cardiology whereby it is well-understood that if we don’t address the gender-imbalance then valuable talent will be lost."
I am an Interventional Cardiologist appointed as a Consultant at the Glenfield Hospital, University Hospitals of Leicester, since 2017. I trained in the Eastern Deanery and completed a PhD from Kings College, London with subsequent publications in the field of cardiac CMR and perfusion imaging. I completed my interventional training with a fellowship at Toronto General Hospital, Canada having been awarded the BCIS fellowship.
I decided on Interventional Cardiology as I enjoyed the technical aspects of doing a procedural sub-speciality. I thrive on the fast pace of interventional cardiology, treating acutely unwell patients who require instant decision-making and intervention. I also enjoy the camaraderie of working in a team environment.
I am frequently asked whether as a female, interventional training is difficult. The oft-cited issues are the perceived “macho” culture of working in a male-dominated field and the often long and rigid training plans. There is no doubt that combining a family with interventional training is a challenge. I worked predominantly full-time as a trainee with three young children and getting a good work-life balance always seemed beyond reach.
The important considerations that can ease the stress of combining training in Cardiology with a family are good quality childcare, a supportive partner/family and flexible training. There are also more female role-models who have successfully navigated the journey and are available for sponsorship and mentorship along the way.
We are now at a cross-roads in Cardiology whereby it is well-understood that if we don’t address the gender-imbalance then valuable talent will be lost. I do believe that if you are passionate about your sub-specialty then you will overcome all odds, and the rewards of doing a job that you enjoy are immense and well-worth the training journey.
Dr Rosie Swallow
Rosie graduated in Medicine from Charing Cross and Westminster Medical School in 1994 as top of her class with honours in her final MBBS examinations. Her early training was in London and Oxford and she then went on to specialty training in Cardiology in Wessex. She completed her training as the first FelIow in Coronary Intervention at Southampton University Hospital in 2005.
She has been a Consultant Interventional Cardiologist at the Royal Bournemouth Hospital (RBH) for the last 15 years. She with her colleagues set up and started the PCI programme in The Dorset Heart Centre (DHC) at the RBH which soon became the largest non-surgical PCI centre in the UK and the 7th largest PCI centre in the UK. The RBH is home to The Dorset Heart Centre performing 24/7 Primary PCI for the surrounding one million population (Dorset and parts of Hampshire and Wiltshire). The development of the Dorset Heart Centre PCI service was instrumental in winning the Hospital Doctor Cardiac team of the year 2006.
She has performed over 4000 PCI cases as the first operator, which includes a large number of complex cases with excellent results. She has been involved in a number of interventional clinical trials as local principle investigator and investigator, recruiting the patients, gaining their consent, and performing the intervention. She has presented at Euro PCR and TCT in abstract, cases and poster sessions.
Rosie has been involved in co-coordinating for the transmission and being a live “operator” in live cases for International (EuroPCR) and National meetings. She has presented frequently cases at “Angio Review” sessions at Advanced Angioplasty and Advanced Cardiac Intervention (ACI). She has also been a podium speaker and sat on a number of specialist panels at ACI over the last 15 years.
She with her colleagues has been heavily involved in training in Intervention. They have trained and completed the training of cardiology consultant colleagues in PCI. They have secured funding and set up a now well established training programme for interventional fellows at Bournemouth and run an excellent training programme. All of our Fellows the BOFs (Bournemouth Old Fellows) have gone on to Cardiology Interventional consultant posts both in the UK and around the world.
She is also a mother, hiker, cold water sea swimmer and very slow runner. In 2019 ditched her car for an electric bike and has never looked back.
Dr Victoria Pettemerides
"Medical training itself is hard and a strong support network both inside and outside of work is incredibly important, so too is a passion for your chosen specialty."
I am a recently appointed Consultant Cardiologist at Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital specialising in Inherited Cardiac Conditions, Sports Cardiology and Echocardiography. I completed my training and a post training Fellowship in the North West Deanery having initially obtained my number in the Peninsular deanery.
One of the joys of my job is the variety it brings. It allows me to be part of teams involved in many aspects of Cardiology including intervention and cardiothoracic surgery. The care of patients with suspected inherited heart conditions ranges from heart muscle conditions to electrical conduction problems and involves close working relationships with geneticists. ICC is predominantly an outpatient specialty with long term patients. It can be very challenging, especially when a diagnosis may be unclear, when understanding family relationships, or when providing a life limiting diagnosis. Yet, it can also be very rewarding particularly when facilitating a patients understanding of a condition and potentially allaying fears. Sports Cardiology is an expanding sub specialty and whilst this largely focuses on grey areas between inherited conditions and physiological adaptation it also includes applying the breadth of general Cardiology knowledge to athletic (recreational or professional) populations.
Although I had an interest in carrying out research during my training it didn’t come to fruition and I do not feel that this has been of any detriment to me in progressing in my career or being able to do my job well. Historically, there was a lot of emphasis on having needed to complete a higher degree in order to obtain a ‘good’ Consultant job. The landscape is definitely changing, and many centres are now a lot more open to the other skills and benefits that a colleague can bring which will complement their research culture. There is no doubt that medical specialty training can be made all the harder with the personal challenges that often occur during that time in our lives. There were certainly many highs and lows during my own training but I don’t think that is specific to Cardiology. Medical training itself is hard and a strong support network both inside and outside of work is incredibly important, so too is a passion for your chosen specialty. Hard work, passion, being open to support and having a focus on your goals will allow you to succeed in achieving your ambitions.
Dr Susan Connolly
Derry, Northern Ireland
"If I had to start over I would make the same career choices again. Yes it has been certainly challenging at times but having good mentors (male and female) along the way really helped and I think I have found a balance that works for me."
I am a Consultant Cardiologist, Western Health and Social Care Trust in Northern Ireland. My subspecialist is preventive cardiology. I moved to Northern Ireland in 2017 as I am a single parent and after having twins in 2014 I wanted to be closer to my family. Prior to that I had been a consultant in Imperial College Healthcare Trust for 13 years where I had led the Imperial Programme for Cardiovascular Health. I was fortunate when I moved to the WHSCT to secure funding that means I was able to set up a similar programme here. The programme is based on research I carried out in Imperial College providing comprehensive evidence-based care to patients with established cardiovascular disease or those who are at high multifactorial risk. As the clinical lead for the programme it is very satisfying to see the results that we achieve in terms of helping patients achieve healthy lifestyle change, better control of their blood pressure and cholesterol as well as improving their psychological health.
With covid we rapidly transformed the programme to a virtual platform which has been really exciting to do and I am now a complete convert to digital health.
I am also level 2 accredited in cardiac CT which I started doing when I moved to the WHSCT and it marries very well with my subspecialist interest. Being able to show patients their images facilitates very useful conversations about lifestyle change and risk reduction in clinic. I am now involved in the NI Taskforce for CVD Prevention which was initiated by BHF NI and our ambition is to transform preventive cardiology services in NI which is very exciting.
Although my job is a busy one it is very enjoyable and what makes it possible as a single parent is good childcare and a support network that I have established. I am also able to do things like the school run every morning as the commute is so short (unlike in London!) and that really helps in terms of seeing the other parents and touching base with teachers if needed. Weekends are spent walking in the beautiful lakelands of Fermanagh (known as Northern Irelands lake District!) with the twins and our border collie Harry. I also like to cook and am about to start a kitchen renovation and so I fall asleep at night at the moment amidst a pile of interior design magazines. If I had to start over I would make the same career choices again. Yes it has been certainly challenging at times but having good mentors (male and female) along the way really helped and I think I have found a balance that works for me.
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