Advancing the Science

Mayo Clinic Medical Science Blog – an eclectic collection of research- and research education-related stories: feature stories, mini news bites, learning opportunities, profiles and more from Mayo Clinic.

January 29, 2019

The Newbies Weigh In – Women in cardiology

By Advancing the Science contributor

Four of the 39 women cardiologists at Mayo Clinic: Shannon Dunlay, M.D., Marysia Tweet, M.D., LaPrincess Brewer, M.D., and Rehka Mankad, M.D.

Diversity and inclusion are integral to Mayo Clinic's mission to provide excellent, culturally relevant care in a welcoming environment to patients from a wide variety of backgrounds and creating an inclusive work environment where differences are valued, allowing individuals to achieve and contribute to their fullest potential.

The women featured in these profiles represent a small - but representative - sample of the talents and dedication of the more than 63,000 diverse individuals who make up Mayo Clinic.

Women in cardiology at Mayo Clinic are blazing trails for the next generation rather than fit a traditional mold. Their backgrounds and accomplishments are varied, adding layers of diversity that extend well beyond the obvious.

Meet LaPrincess Brewer, M.D.

‘There is strong mentorship at Mayo, and I knew I would be trained to be among the next leaders in academic cardiology.’

LaPrincess Brewer, M.D. (@DrLaPrincess), Division of Preventive Cardiology, says she’s always had female role models in cardiology although representation varied. “I thought, ‘Wow, she did it. Maybe I can, too.’”

She says the representation at Mayo Clinic was inspiring. “I saw many female cardiologists on staff and in leadership positions. I saw women from Mayo leading professional organization meetings. I felt I would be embraced and my skills and talents would be fostered at this institution. I wanted to take the baton and pass it on. But before you can do that, you have to receive the baton. There is strong mentorship at Mayo, and I knew I would be trained to be among the next leaders in academic cardiology.”

Dr. Brewer has a master’s degree in public health, and her research focuses on cardiovascular health disparities. “In the church community where I grew up in North Carolina, so many people lost their lives prematurely to cardiovascular risk factors,” she says. “So much potential was lost. That drove me to focus on preventive cardiology and health disparities research. I want to make the strongest impact possible from a public health standpoint on the No. 1 killer in the world.”

Dr. Brewer faces unique challenges as an underrepresented minority woman in medicine, who account for less than 5 percent of cardiologists. Dr. Brewer is the first African-American woman cardiologist on the Mayo Clinic Rochester staff.

“Don’t let perceived barriers deter you from pursuing cardiology,” she says. “I’m early in my career and have had so many opportunities I wouldn’t have imagined as a medical student, and I’ve been fostered by my mentors and professional organizations. If the culture of your institution supports what you do professionally and personally, this will lead to your success. Mayo Clinic has been supportive of my career development and has been an incredible place to work and pursue my unique research interests.”


Meet Shannon Dunlay, M.D.

‘I wanted to be a cardiologist and knew I could make the rest of it work.’

Shannon Dunlay, M.D. (@ShannonMDunlay), Division of Circulatory Failure, was interested in cardiology as far back as college when she worked with a hypertension basic scientist. “I knew I’d have the opportunity to save lives and help patients feel better and live longer,” she says. “I didn’t let the perceptions about cardiology and work-family life balance affect my decision. I wanted to be a cardiologist and knew I could make the rest of it work.”

She says she noticed that some programs where she interviewed lacked a female presence. “I knew programs without women weren’t a good fit for me,” she says. “When I interviewed with Dr. Hayes at Mayo Clinic, it had a big impact on me. Dr. Roger was my research mentor during my fellowship. Seeing women doing what I wanted to do at Mayo Clinic was a big factor in my decision-making. I saw that I could follow in their footsteps.”

Now associate program director for the Cardiovascular Training Program, Dr. Dunlay is interested in attracting even more women to Mayo Clinic. “The biggest thing we can do to attract women to cardiology is to have more women cardiologists,” she says. “Seeing us being successful and happy is impactful to those considering cardiology positions. Dr. Hayes and others have been good at helping women get in leadership positions and achieve academic promotion.”


Meet Rekha Mankad, M.D.

‘I didn’t think it mattered to me if there were females cardiologists on staff. I realized then how much I may have missed out on.’

Rekha Mankad, M.D. (@RMankadMD), Division of Cardiovascular Ultrasound, came to Mayo Clinic in 2007 after having been in two private practices in Pittsburgh. Her husband, Sunil Mankad, M.D., Division of Cardiovascular Ultrasound, was recruited to the department, and they came as a “package deal.”

When Dr. Mankad joined the Mayo Clinic staff, she was used to working among primarily male colleagues. “I didn’t think it mattered if there were female cardiologists on staff,” she says. “However, when I saw the female cardiologists and dual-physician couples here at Mayo, I said to myself, ‘These are individuals who have traveled the same road as me.’ I realized then how much I may have missed out on by not having female mentors and colleagues. The men I’d worked with were really great, but I have a deeper connection with the women I have had the privilege of working with here.”

Dr. Mankad’s career changed at Mayo Clinic. “I hadn’t had an academic career with research because I was also raising children and was in private practice,” she says. “And I didn’t see any women doing it. My male colleagues who had academic careers had stay-at-home wives. I had never envisioned myself doing research. However, the environment at Mayo Clinic is conducive to academia, and there are so many people to help you along the way. I’m so happy that I have been able to do some research and publish papers; these activities have enhanced my career as a cardiologist.

“As a woman, when you see mostly men in a specialty, you identify it as a male specialty and have trouble picturing yourself in that role. When female trainees come to me today for advice, I tell them to do what they love. It’s always difficult for everyone, men and women alike, to balance work and family life. If you are passionate about a career choice, even if it is ‘male-dominated,’ you should go for it. You don’t want to look back and have regrets. Life is difficult, and there are always choices to be made. Do what makes you happy.”


Meet Marysia Tweet, M.D.

‘Women here are so visible, approachable and involved with trainees and mentoring others. There’s a strong spirit of helping each other.’

Marysia Tweet, M.D. (@marysia_tweet), Division of Ischemic Heart Disease and Critical Care, says she is privileged to have had women in cardiology at Mayo Clinic pave the way for her.

“Mayo Clinic is a great place to work, and leaders are trying to make it an even better place to work for everyone,” she says. “Even though our department is a bit higher than the national average for women on staff, it feels like it’s even higher because the women here are so visible, approachable, and involved with trainees and mentoring others. There’s a strong spirit of helping each other.”

When Dr. Tweet interviewed for a fellowship, some institutions had an obvious lack of women. “That was concerning,” she says. “One place said it was because they didn’t offer part-time status. It was very uplifting to see so many women in cardiology at Mayo Clinic.”

Dr. Tweet, who has been on staff for two years, has five children. Before she accepted a staff position, she asked if she could work part time. “Some others told me not to dare to ask for it,” she says. “I hesitated asking because the answer could have been no, but it was a deal-breaker for me at the time.” Dr. Tweet returned to full-time status after a year and receipt of a BIRCWH scholar grant to study women and heart disease.

Dr. Tweet now mentors other women cardiology trainees. “When you have great role models — both women and men — it becomes second nature to do that for others,” she says. “Recently a female trainee interested in cardiology was told to avoid this specialty if she wants to have children. I encouraged her to go for it. It’s possible, and the more women who go into cardiology, the more the culture will change.”

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Mayo Clinic has major campuses in Rochester, Minn.; Scottsdale and Phoenix, Ariz.; and Jacksonville, Fla.; while Mayo Clinic Health System has dozens of locations in several states.

It is one of the largest not‐for‐profit, academic health systems in the U.S., with 63,000 employees across its medical practice, research and education. With a focus on caring for patients with serious, complex illnesses, Mayo Clinic operates in five states and cares for more than one million people a year, from all 50 states and nearly 140 countries. Mayo Clinic is ranked #1 in the nation by U.S. News and World Report.

Editor's note:  These profiles accompanied a longer feature in Alumni Magazine, Issue 4, 2018, discussing Mayo Clinic's gender balance in cardiology. They are just some of the 39 women in the cardiology practice across Mayo Clinic. Visit  the Mayo Clinic Alumni website for perspectives of additional women cardiology staff members at Mayo Clinic.

 

Tags: cardiology, diversity, health disparities, LaPrincess Brewer, Marysia Tweet, medical research, medical research education, People, Rekha Mankad, research education, Shannon Dunlay, women's health

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