Major Heart Organizations Now Led by Women

Megan Brooks

January 17, 2020

Pictured From left to right, Athena Poppas, MD; Judy Hung, MD; Maully Shah, MD; Christine Albert, MD, MPH; Sharmila Dorbala, MD, MPH; Andrea Russo, MD; Barbara Casadei, MD (Photo credit: Philippe Bertrand, MD, PhD)

Female cardiologists are increasingly being tapped for leadership roles in major cardiology organizations, including, in 2020, the American College of Cardiology, the European Society of Cardiology, the Heart Rhythm Society and others.

Christine Albert, MD, MPH, is one of them. She is president-elect of the Heart Rhythm Society and founding chair of the newly established Department of Cardiology at the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai, Los Angeles.

Albert begins her 1-year term as president of the Heart Rhythm Society in May. She'll take over from another female leader — outgoing president Andrea Russo, MD, director of electrophysiology and arrhythmia services, Cooper University Health, Camden, New Jersey.

"Smart Move"

It's "very cool" to see a growing number of women in cardiology leadership roles, Albert told theheart.org | Medscape Cardiology. Ten years ago, it would have been unheard of to witness multiple female leaders simultaneously serving in these top-ranked positions, she said.

"We have under-representation of women in cardiology. I think it's helpful to have women leaders in societies and for women to feel like the specialty of cardiology is open to them," Albert said.

"Younger generations really expect that level of diversity, so it's a very smart move for organizations to pick women leaders," she added.

The American College of Cardiology (ACC) will have two consecutive female presidents: Athena Poppas, MD, Rhode Island Hospital, Providence, is current ACC president, and Dipti Itchhaporia, MD, Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian, Newport Beach, California, will serve as president when Poppas' term is up.

"The American College of Cardiology is at the forefront of efforts to increase the number of women in leadership roles," Poppas told theheart.org | Medscape Cardiology.

She also noted that two of the College's newest journals have women serving as editors-in-chief: Bonnie Ky, MD, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, is editor-in-chief of JACC: CardioOncology; and Julia Grapsa, MD, PhD, The Royal London Hospital, is editor-in-chief of JACC: Case Reports.

In 2016, the ACC created a task force on diversity and inclusion to address the low percentages of women and other under-represented cardiovascular professionals entering the profession, Poppas said. She also noted that the ACC Leadership Academy, now in its fourth year, is made up of 50% women.

Progress, but Long Road Ahead

Joining her colleagues at the helm of a major cardiology organization is Barbara Casadei, MD, president of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).

"It's good to see professional societies becoming more inclusive and valuing diversity, but we still have a long way to go," Casadei, from John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, United Kingdom, told theheart.org | Medscape Cardiology. "Women remain under-represented in cardiology. The situation has slightly improved over the past decade," she added.

Casadei noted that the number of female professionals on the ESC's board, committees, and task forces has increased significantly, as has the number of female cardiologists actively seeking these positions.

"These women have provided unique insights, great dedication, and an antidote to 'group-think.' Having said that, we are still far from 50:50, and operating from a minority standing has its challenges. The ESC is indebted to them for stepping out of their comfort zone to contribute to our mission," Casadei commented.

To support female cardiologists, the ESC launched the Women in ESC initiative, a project that helps women progress in their careers through increasing their visibility and involvement in the Society and providing dedicated grants.

"I believe that it is our duty to support our members — all our members — to achieve their professional objectives and overcome challenges," Casadei said.

Other female leaders in cardiology in 2020 include Judy Hung, MD, MassGeneral Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, president-elect of the American Society of Echocardiography; Maully Shah, MBBS, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, president of the Pediatric and Congenital Electrophysiology Society; and Sharmila Dorbala, MD, MPH, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, president of the American Society of Nuclear Cardiology.

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