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Women in Cardiology in Honor of National Women’s History Month

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Cardiologist Dr. Kemble checking a patient's heart on ultrasound.

National Women’s History month, recognized each year in March, draws attention to the important
roles that women play in our lives. One of these roles is caring for heart health. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in women, killing one woman about every 80 seconds1. Female practitioners within the cardiology field bring a unique perspective for combatting these alarming statistics and compassionately support patients as they make heart-healthy lifestyle changes.

The American College of Cardiology reports that there are more women in cardiology now than ever before2. The Queen’s Heart Institute is proud to include nearly 90 talented and skilled women working in its department who provide patient-centric care. Almost 75 percent of the cardiology staff is female, offering a rich understanding of the health issues that matter most to women. In honor of National Women’s History Month, several female cardiology staff members at the Queen’s Heart Institute shared about their experiences and offered advice to those who plan to join the field.

What made you want to specialize in cardiology?

Medicine is my second career. I was a pharmacist prior to becoming a physician. I chose to switch careers with the goal of eventually becoming a cardiologist because I find the heart fascinating. Cardiology is a dynamic field with many new innovations. It’s also a field that spans many different disciplines and offers the opportunity to touch the lives of so many diverse patients. Heart disease is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in the U.S., and it’s very rewarding to develop relationships with patients and treat their chronic cardiovascular disease.

– Helaine Kwong, MD

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

The most rewarding part of my job is being able to help people. We have impactful and meaningful interactions with our patients whether that be through a procedure, education or change in lifestyle. We can help our patients regain some comfort and quality of life. And witnessing these changes for the better is an amazing feeling.

– Alison Mangonon, RN

What inspires you the most about your job?

Patients’ capacity to change and learn. I’m always amazed and humbled at how much trust and faith our patients place on us. Also, when a patient tells me how happy they are that their doctor is a woman and/or a person of color I feel blessed and humbled beyond belief.

– Margo Vassar, MD

The Queen’s Heart Institute staff inspires me every day. The duties and tasks they perform in our daily job, and how hard working they are surprises me. Even on busy days, our staff are high quality workers. They know how to manage and run clinic. If an obstacle occurs, they immediately find a solution and take care of the situation. We have a strong and knowledgeable team. With this job, its nonstop learning and you gain new skills all the time. This team allows you to grow and to expand your wings.

– Rhea Tiburcio, Physician Practice Assistant

How does being a woman in the cardiology field empower you each day?

There is inherent importance in being a woman in the field of cardiology, just because there are relatively few of us. The importance of that is not lost on me. I know that I need to have a positive impact on this field and strive to be a role model for others. Diversity is important for the progression of the field, but also important to our patients, who often want to have a doctor who can relate to them.

– Anne Kemble, MD

How do you see the women empowering one another in the cardiology department at QHS?

I see women on our Queen’s Heart Institute team sharing knowledge, acknowledging others’ contributions, and expressing appreciation for their hard work.

– Nora Rimando, Physician Practice Assistant

What advice can you share with women who are starting their journey working in the field of
cardiology?

Cardiology is a very challenging and rewarding field. Yet, women are not alone in this field. There are female colleagues and friends who are going through the same experiences, and we can rely on each other for support and understanding about work, family, and life.

Rachel Lee, MD

What advice can you share with female students in medical school?

Hang in there no matter how tough it gets because your presence as a female health care provider will positively impact the quality of care and outcomes for your future patients. You will also help pave the way for other young females who will be challenged with less obstacles because of you. It is a guarantee that through this journey, you will inspire other young females in healthcare, and even someday your own daughter.

Lyndsey Sakuda, APRN

My advice is to keep going and that you are valid. Cardiology has been a male dominated field for so long, but more and more strong and fantastic women make it better.

Melanie Vea, RN

1 https://www.goredforwomen.org/en/about-heart-disease-in-women/latest-research

2 https://www.acc.org/Membership/Sections-and-Councils/Medical-Residents/Women-in-Cardiology

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