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
Flexible working is an option for men and women in cardiology. The individual profiles below offer examples of how it can work.
Dr Alyson Smith
I have been working as a LTFT doctor since the birth of my twins in 2010. I was a cardiology registrar at that time, working at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals and did sub-speciality training in echocardiography and cardiac MRI. Following achieving CCT in 2015 I joined Chesterfield Royal Hospital, working 3 days a week. My role currently involves in-patient and out-patient work as well as being medical lead for echocardiography at the trust.
Throughout my LTFT working as a registrar I received support from all the cardiologists at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals and now at Chesterfield working LTFT is common place for doctors, for multiple reasons throughout the hospital.
The main advantage for myself in working LTFT is the involvement in family life and “me time”. My non working days have allowed me time to have head space whilst running – something I took up in 2014 and last year I achieved 1000 miles. The only disadvantage of working LTFT can be busy days at work as you try and fit everything in, which may be the same no matter how many hours you work!
Dr Arzu Cubukcu
My Consultant Cardiology career, spanning over two decades, has been an enjoyable one, with initially a wider spectrum of investigations and procedures; later more focused on cardiac imaging, replacing invasive angiography skill with computed tomography coronary angiography (CTCA), while cardiac ultrasound has remained one of the pillars of my skill set. Being based at a district general hospital (DGH), I have had the opportunity to observe the natural history of many conditions and reflect upon the medical decisions I have made over the years, now steadily transformed to shared decisions through multidisciplinary team (MDT) process. I even had some time for research which now and again comes to fruition, most recently with an EPSRC grant; ongoing interest in cardio-oncology; all exciting avenues.
I could not value my work highly if I did not have time to appreciate my family, develop some hobbies and remain fit (aside a few accidents). It has never been an easy ride, but ultimately part-time, or less than full-time work provided me with these opportunities. There have been moments, I am sure familiar to all, the challenges of serving two masters and pleasing none: feeling inadequate as a professional and as a parent. However, the scene is changing for the better for all, especially those who want to pursue other interests and maintain hands-on parenting. The work achieved and creativity demonstrated along the way are progressively more valued; productivity and efficiency gradually replace traditional over-valued shear “attendance”, or “working long hours” concepts. There is still some way to go yet.
An unexpected development in the pathway towards flexible working is related to the recent pandemic, a silver lining of this horror story. Medicine, like many other businesses explored remote working and progress has been made in alternative communication tools, patient pathways and patient empowerment/self-management. It is apparent that crowded clinic waiting rooms were not necessarily the best way to serve our patients and engage our workforce. Further incorporation of internet-based tools has offered a flexible and productive environment not only for patients, but also for the workforce and is particularly suitable for chronic disease management.
Although I enjoyed the “camaraderie” and long working hours in my earlier career, more versatile and adaptable work arrangements ultimately attract a better-quality workforce who also deliver their best and offer multi-dimensional perspectives. I feel privileged to achieve satisfaction - to a degree, never fully! - in my work; in my family that I am proud of. It is a pleasure to see my son grow to a confident young man, following the predominant family trade, engineering. “Work-life” balance flexibility has been one of the most important commodities for me on the way to pursue a wide range of interests, raise a family and remain a professional.
Dr Ayisha Khan-Kheil
I am an ST6 Cardiology Registrar in the West Midlands, training in cardiac MRI and heart failure. I am one of the West Midlands BJCA Training Representatives and am passionate about cardiology and improving training. I am also a mother of three daughters aged 12, 9 and 3 who together with my husband, put life into perspective during the times when cardiology can be all consuming.
I have worked less than full time at 80% (4 days a week) since ST4. My day off helps me balance the family dynamic and takes the pressure off getting everything done at the weekend. I do the school runs, spend the day entertaining my toddler and catching up with my friends. I do try to forget about work but can be found guilty of spending some of my time planning the events I organise for training and working on publications.
My working week is divided into CMR sessions, heart failure sessions and 24 on-call hour shifts. My CMR sessions involve learning how to scan and report cardiac MRIs and my heart failure sessions involve referral rounds and a community clinic once a week. My hours on my working days tend to be long, so in order to balance this, I exercise every morning before work to get me energised for the day ahead.
There are multiple advantages to training LTFT. The extra training time is useful to gain further experience before CCT and my week is more productive and enjoyable. Working LTFT has enabled me to have a happier life beyond medicine and helps relieve some of the intensity from my training commitments. The departments I have worked in have always been supportive and flexible towards my job plan.
In terms of disadvantages, the main one would be missing certain sessions that only occur on your day off. Also, as there are so few LTFT trainees, you often compare your progression with your full time colleagues. This can be stressful, because accrediting in echo and MRI or being signed off for curriculum procedures is not always tailored to trainees working part time. However, there are ways to navigate this by planning ahead, working with your supervisors and maximising training opportunities.
I really love what I do and as the saying goes: “Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life”. I feel that by working LTFT my family and my career get the very best version of me.
Dr Doug Lee
Currently I’m an ST6 subspecialising in cardiac imaging - CMR and complex echo - in the West Midlands deanery. I applied for LTFT training for health reasons - I have end stage chronic kidney disease and became dialysis dependent in 2006. I need to dialyse 4x weekly at 4 hours per session which I do at home as this allows greater flexibility with work commitments.
When I came into the training number at ST3 level, I was working full-time, and dialysing, which was tough but doable. I didn’t know about the possibility of LTFT training until a consultant geriatrician friend suggested it. Applying was relatively simple and quick. Having the equivalent of an extra day off a week (I work 80%) is kinder to myself and something I don’t regret.
The deanery have been pretty supportive of my circumstances and have placed me at hospitals relatively nearby to limit commuting time.
My timetable sessions are as follows: 3 of CMR, 1 TOE, 1 stress echo, 1 clinic, 1 complex echo, and 1 admin. Despite being 80% LTFT, I still partake in 100% on-call rota (1 in 10).
Because I don’t want to miss any important sessions, I end up having two half days instead of one day off during the week. In my experience, taking half days off isn’t ideal, as if you’re anything like me, I never leave on time - sometimes at 1500, much to the horror of my wife and colleagues.
What do I do on my half days? I pick my son up from school and take him for his swimming lessons. On the other day, I try to get onto dialysis early so that I can have some family time in the evening.
What are the good bits? Having extra time during the week to do spend with my son is fantastic, and being able to get on dialysis at leisure as opposed to rushing home from work in the evening to try to fit it in before bed.
What are the bad bits? Workload still feels the same. I have an endless number of CMR/echo reports to do, but never have the time, so that usually means coming in early/staying late, or logging in via VPN at home (during dialysis). All this extra time isn’t recognised and training is still longer with LTFT.
Would I recommend it? Definitely, whatever your circumstances. I know a number of colleagues gone through their medical career and regretted missing out on family/children growing up/non-medical aspects of life. For me, it has been mainly health reasons that I chose LTFT, but being able to spend it with my son and family has been invaluable. Most of my placements have been completely supportive of LTFT training. Of course there has been opposition amongst some, but I can say this was definitely in the minority.
Dr Joanna Lim
I started working LTFT when I went back to work as a trainee (ST6) after having my first baby. I stayed LTFT at 80% for the rest of my training as I rotated through the 4 fellowships on the Pan London ACHD Rotation. I finished my supposed 2 year rotation 5 years later with 3 children in tow. I found the start of each fellowship quite stressful - some of the institutions were not used to having LTFT trainees and I think I put extra pressure on myself to work really hard and disprove any negative perceptions about part-time working. I was fortunate enough to have amazing support from Cathy Head who was running the Pan London ACHD Programme at the time - without her I'm not sure I would have made it through!
People talk about the guilt that comes with being a 'part-timer' and feeling like you never do a good job at home or at work. I made a decision early on that I was not going to feel guilty at home because I did not want my daughter to grow up thinking that working mothers should feel guilty. I am certainly not a perfect mother, but I think I am good enough, so I don't carry any guilt on that front (although my wise friends tell me parenting gets harder as they get older, so I suspect I will feel much less confident about my parenting in 10 years' time!).
Dispensing with guilt about work is harder because when you do reduced hours in a full-time role, there is inevitably a deficit that someone else has to pick up on the days you're not there, and that is harder to reconcile. However, I realised eventually that no one is there all the time - plenty of people mix NHS work with academia, private practice, or other endeavours and I have never heard any of them express feelings of guilt. Nonetheless I think this issue is probably much easier if you have a slot share arrangement. I also found an excellent role model in one of my specialist nurse colleagues. She worked reduced hours and was very disciplined about keeping to them, but she made the most epic contribution during those hours and we were all in awe of what she achieved. It was helpful for me to realise that you could be part-time AND a highly valued, integral member of the team. I think it is also beneficial for teams to have people like her who model healthy work-life boundaries.
I was appointed as Consultant specialising in ACHD at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in 2019. I work 8PAs in 4 days and I really enjoy my job. I have wonderful colleagues who are incredibly supportive of this arrangement, in particular my Consultant colleague Liz Orchard with whom I work most closely. On my day off I put an 'out of office' on my email and try very hard not to do any medical work and to focus purely on the kids. My husband works shifts but he also has one consistent weekday off with the kids. This works really well for us. The rest of the time we use wraparound care and we are pretty much 50/50 in terms of drop-offs and pick-ups, although I do most of the childcare at weekends as he works 1 in 2.
The advantage of working this way is that I find it very fulfilling as both a mother and a doctor. The disadvantage is that life is totally full-on and can sometimes feel overwhelming. I really struggle to find time to do the 'extra-curricular activities’ my peers do, like writing papers and guidelines. Whilst our childcare arrangement works well at the moment, I don’t by any means feel that we have got it ‘sorted’ – I fully anticipate ups and downs and we will undoubtedly need to review and adapt our arrangements in time as everyone’s needs change.
For now however, I feel incredibly grateful for our current situation. Over the past year I have also got better at recognising when I am feeling overwhelmed and making time for myself to decompress. I found working with a coach really helpful in that respect, and I also discovered yoga, which has been a revelation - I would highly recommend both!
Dr Joshua Wilcox
I’m currently an ST4 Academic Clinical Fellow (ACF) and registrar in cardiology working in the South London deanery. Towards the end of my year out between foundation and core training I was delighted, though utterly surprised, to become a father. LTFT training followed soon after, and was enthusiastically maintained when we discovered our second pregnancy was twins. I went back to full time training 2 years later during my second year of ACF/registrar training.
LTFT training is not an easy option, particularly in procedural specialties like cardiology. Clinical exposure becomes more sparse and progress can be frustratingly slow. Already interrupted with other commitments, specialty training can suffer. It takes organisation and confidence to ensure your vital training opportunities aren’t further disrupted than they need to be – for instanc eensuring childcare days fall on lab days or echo lists, or insisting that on-call shifts only occupy the proportion of working days they should.
The amazing benefits of LTFT training, however, are often overlooked – time to spend with your other commitments without the intense pressure that full-time rotas can exert. And whilst I’m in awe of doctors who juggle care commitments with clinical rotas and their training needs, I hope I’m one of a growing number of examples of men in medicine able to ask for LTFT training (which will help support the number of women in cardiology).
At the end of a career as a cardiologist, I won’t look back at missed clinics and procedures as missed opportunities; I know I would have regretted forever not being part of my children’s early lives. I hope to show others that they can make similar choices even in a career as competitive as cardiology.
Dr Kristian Skinner
I am an ST7 Cardiology trainee subspecialising in Devices and Heart Failure. I am in the East of England Deanery and currently working in the Transplant team at Papworth Hospital. I have worked less than full time at 80% since shortly after the birth of my first daughter, for the last 2½ years. I am currently the less than full time representative for Cardiology for the East of England deanery.
Having worked full time for all my prior training, when I found out we were expecting, I decided to look at less than full time work. My wife is an academic trainee in Psychiatry and we have always tried to give each other equal opportunities in our careers, so we both applied for less than full time working to try and make childcare responsibilities more equal. With the improved shared parental leave provisions in the new contract, we’re taking shared parental leave with our second daughter. The deanery, particularly our training programme director, were very supportive, and though occasionally I have had colleagues raise an eyebrow at my being LTFT, I have mostly found the response to be very positive.
I have found working less than full time very fulfilling – it has allowed me to spend much more time with my children than I otherwise would have, and I’ve found I enjoy my work more as I have more energy to devote to it.
The application process was simple, but the initial period of working out a rota, ensuring that each aspect of my work was reduced equally, and working with medical staffing was more complicated, and has been repeated every time I have rotated around different hospitals. Working LTFT has meant that my colleagues are reaching consultancy a little before me, and I have occasionally felt that I have missed opportunities at work because lists, procedures or teaching has happened whilst I have been away. The reduction in pay has not been particularly noticeable. These disadvantages have been more than offset by the benefits I’ve had from less than full time work.
I’m pleased to see less than full time working becoming normalised; in my current team, 3 of the 5 consultants are LTFT.
Dr Lynn Miller
I was appointed as consultant cardiologist in 2007, in NHS Fife in Scotland (just north of Edinburgh). I am a general cardiologist with a specialist interest in ACHD and obstetric cardiology. I trained full time and worked full time as a consultant until I had my first child, when I dropped one day per week. Following the birth of my second child, a colleague had her first child, and we started a job share arrangement. This seems to be very uncommon amongst UK consultant cardiologists, and we are only aware of one other pair who have done this.
We each work three days per week, overlapping on the day of the TOE list, which we share. We shared the care of our cohort of inpatients and the obstetric cardiology service. Our arrangement works so well because we have shared clinical interests (for instance, it means that there is someone from the obstetric cardiology service available each day Monday to Friday), but also because we have a very similar style of practice, which means there really isn't conflict when sharing the care of patients. Working as a job share requires real trust between the pairing as well as excellent communication, particularly as you spend little time physically together.
We have had great support from our clinical lead in this, and we have found this arrangement really beneficial for ourselves and our families. I have found it much more sustainable to work as a consultant cardiologist with children with this working pattern, and I would highly recommend exploring it. I would be delighted to be contacted by anyone considering a job share, or with further questions about the mechanics of it.
Dr Kuldeepa Veeratterapillay
Newcastle upon Tyne
I’m an ST4 cardiology registrar in the Northern Deanery. I started my ST3 training post as a full time trainee in 2017 but started working less than full time (80%) after I had my 2 daughters. Working LTFT has been one of the best decisions I have made in my professional career. Taking that time off every week and having slightly less out of hours work that my full time colleagues do make a real difference in helping me find a balance between work and spending time with my family. It also allows more time for CPD and reflection and I would definitely recommend it!
It can sometimes be difficult especially in early registrar years due to pressure in getting enough procedural exposure and may require flexible childcare options. I have been lucky to have a few good female role models here in the North East who have inspired me and taught me that it is doable with some planning and organisation.
I am also LTFT rep for my region and networking with trainees from other specialties have made me realise a lot of us are in the same boat, especially those in procedure-heavy specialties. However, the variety of invasive and non-invasive procedures is what I find really enjoyable and rewarding in cardiology and I would not have it any other way! Although it can be challenging at times, it is incredibly important to maintain that passion and hard work.
Dr Nigel Lewis
I am a cardiologist and in January 2020 I chose work more flexibly to provide childcare for my 3 children who were 1, 6 and 8 years at the time. This involved condensing my working week into 4 days. Working within an entirely male consultant department, I was the first to request this working pattern. I negotiated this with my clinical director, who was very supportive.
I have been a consultant nearly 7 years at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals and I have sub-specialty interests in complex devices, inherited cardiac conditions (ICC) and heart failure (HF). I work within 3 sub-specialty teams and have a flexible working week, so that all services are cross-covered. My Fridays free when I’m not on-call. I provide 1 in 12 on-call general cardiology cover, 1 in 10 out of hours on-call pacing and 1 in 12 ‘consultant of the week’ ward cover. I generally will perform 2 device lists per week and on alternate weeks, perform device extractions. I am committed to 2 clinics a week, in both ICC and a mixed heart failure and device clinic. I participate in a number of MDTs, provide support to specialist nurses in ICC and HF and deal with device queries from the physiologists pre- and post-implant. Working 4 days has not hindered my ability to participate in additional professional commitments. I am a principle investigator for a number of clinical trials and have recently recruited a full-time device fellow.
Due to my wide specialist interests, I have always had a busy schedule. Working flexibly with my peers has allowed me to meet the number of annualised sessions required in my job plan. There are huge advantages to having a day off with a young family. It allows me to see my children more and share more of their early years development, but also gives me more opportunity to be more involved with schooling. It gives much more balance to my life and allows me to have individual time with my youngest son.
However, working less than full time, whilst doing a full time job remains hard work. One has to be more efficient and organised, particularly when completing administrative work or providing support and feedback to colleagues. I quickly learnt as a consultant, that the admin and emails always keeps coming and that this does not stop on the Fridays that I am not there. This makes the start of my week busier and you have to be prepared to work harder to complete tasks and sometimes stay later. Through the pandemic, remote working has become much more acceptable and has facilitated many of us to access work via secure laptops from home. This has further facilitated me completing my work flexibly, although I have to remain strict about when to turn the laptop off at home.
I am glad that I chose to do this, as it suits my family life. I feel very fortunate to have understandable colleagues and a department that now supports flexible working. Since doing this, colleagues have also expressed an interest to do the same.
Dr Sai Bhagra
I work as a consultant cardiologist with interests in advanced HF and cardiac transplantation at Royal Papworth Hospital, Cambridge. My role is a busy mix; covering the inpatient service, for those with advanced HF and after transplantation (including patients on ICU on pharmacological and/or mechanical circulatory support); performing endomyocardial biopsies and right heart catheter studies and reviewing outpatients with advanced heart failure and post-transplantation.
My wife, Catriona, and I trained in cardiology in the Northern Deanery. Prior to the birth of our daughter, we jointly decided to split the period of maternity leave. Catriona took the first six months, then returned to full time registrar training, whilst I had parental leave for the subsequent six months. I was the first male cardiology registrar in the Deanery to ask for shared maternity leave and was fortunate to have a highly supportive training program director.
I enjoyed a wonderful six months attending baby activity classes most days, often as the sole male parent! Sharing parental leave also allowed Catriona and I to minimise the gap in respective CCT dates. Thereafter, we relocated as a family to Toronto for our fellowships. Sharing childcare whilst both in full time training and covering various rotas was a juggle but not unsurmountable. At the end of our time in Canada we were both appointed to consultant posts in Cambridge and returned to the UK.
Balancing our professional responsibilities and childcare (with our growing family and number 2) has been challenging but we have made it work for us. Taking time off during training to look after our daughter was a wholly positive experience, and in no way detrimental to my career (nor my wife’s). I would encourage trainees who are thinking about taking parental leave to give this serious consideration. In the grand scheme of things, this time is precious - your child is little only for a short while, and the time spent watching them grow and develop always passes far too quickly.
Dr Tim Fairbairn
I am a Consultant Cardiologist and Cardiovascular imaging lead at Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital. I also am a part time academic with an MRC fellowship and Honorary Senior Lecturer at the University of Liverpool. My wife is a Medical Oncologist with a busy clinical job, as well as being PI on several trials and supervising PhD students. We have 2 sons aged 10 and 7 and were lucky enough to have our third boy in 2020.
Like many parents, medical and non-medical there are several pressures on the work life balance, but the most important thing will always be family. With our two older boys we were unable to consider shared parental leave and my wife even spent some of her maternity leave in Canada during -20°C weather, with two boys under 3 years old, to support my career. This time round it was the first opportunity I had to be able to contribute a bit more, spend more time with the boys and at the same time allow my wife to continue her career with less guilt about returning to work.
I have no delusions that home will be more challenging than work and that my wife makes it look easy. However, I am excited to see if we all survive the 2½ months. I may not have the chance to spend this much time with them again for a long time, do the school drop off, baby group activities and help fatten up number 3. My colleagues, trust and academic links have been universally supportive; work will still be there when I return, let's hope the boys are when my wife gets home from work.
August 2021: Resources for pregnant cardiologists, their partners & supervisors
The British Cardiovascular Society Working Group on: Improving resources and support for cardiology trainees and consultants during pregnancy, fertility treatment, pregnancy loss & parental leave.
The working group, with input from representatives from BCIS, BHRS, radiology, occupational health and human resources have compiled this document to assist trainees, their supervisors, consultants and their colleagues with issues around radiation in pregnancy, pregnancy loss, fertility treatment, antenatal care, maternity leave and parental leave.
In an easy-to-understand FAQ format, information regarding these often poorly understood issues is provided in the hope that all cardiology trainees and consultants experience high levels of support and understanding during what can be a very challenging time for them.
Current BCS Women in Cardiology lead
Dr Rebecca Dobson
Rebecca is a Consultant Cardiologist with a specialist interest in cardio-oncology and works at Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital. She works less than full time and is mum to two young children. She is always happy to be contacted regarding ideas for future WIC initiatives or by anyone needing signposting to advice/support.
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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