“Be alert to both the absence of normal as well as the presence of abnormal”

by Carolyn Thomas      @HeartSisters

It isn’t often that I’m wide awake at 1 a.m. But sometimes, a dream or a fire truck siren or whatever jolts me so wide awake in the middle of the night that sleep seems suddenly impossible. When this does happen, I’ve learned that I can sometimes lull myself back to sleep by turning on my bedside radio. (Radios! Remember those?)  My old clock radio is tuned permanently to CBC, our national Canadian broadcaster. And 1 a.m. is when CBC runs the Public Radio International program called “The World” . I love that show.

It isn’t often that I hear something on The World so perfectly applicable to women’s heart attacks that I’m moved to sit up in bed, grab a Sharpie and the little stack of post-it notes beside said radio, and quickly scribble down the words before I forget what’s just been said. But this was one of those times.         .    .    Continue reading ““Be alert to both the absence of normal as well as the presence of abnormal””

How I used to describe SCAD. And what I’ve learned since.

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

I’d never heard of the heart condition called Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection (SCAD) until I attended the WomenHeart Science & Leadership patient advocacy training at Mayo Clinic in 2008.  SCAD, I learned back then, was a rare and often fatal condition, seen mostly in young, healthy women who have few if any cardiac risk factors. But in a recent interview, cardiologists who specialize in this frequently misunderstood diagnosis added some surprising updates to what is now known about SCAD.     .        . Continue reading “How I used to describe SCAD. And what I’ve learned since.”

Saying the word “misdiagnosis” is not doctor-bashing

by Carolyn Thomas     @HeartSisters   
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Before my cardiac symptoms forced an early retirement, my entire adult career was spent in the field of public relations, in corporate, government and non-profit sectors. Which is to say I’ve had decades of firsthand experience speaking publicly on behalf of all kinds of people. I was paid to both defend the indefensible stupidity of certain industry presidents, and also to pitch engaging human interest stories to help promote good causes.
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But it was only when I started voluntarily speaking out on behalf of other female heart patients that I encountered any real backlash – and that came from the most unlikely sources.       .          .  Continue reading “Saying the word “misdiagnosis” is not doctor-bashing”

Walking the tightrope: women cardiologists in an old boys’ club

by Carolyn Thomas     @HeartSisters   

You know there’s trouble when the Women In Cardiology Leadership Council reports this year that their group (part of the American College of Cardiology) is “very frustrated and concerned about the lack of growth in the numbers of women pursuing a career in cardiology.”(1) 

And no wonder! Fewer than 13 per cent of cardiologists are women, despite what’s been called “a robust pipeline of female med students and internal medicine residents” who could choose this field.(2)  And I’d bet my next squirt of nitro spray that a man implanted your stent  – because only about 5 per cent of all interventional cardiologists (the ones specifically trained for this procedure) are women.

Female cardiologists are not only the minority in their profession, but “discrimination against women is entrenched in the culture of cardiology”; in fact, female cardiologists are more likely than males (96% vs 8%) to experience discrimination related to gender.(3)       .         .            .         .    Continue reading “Walking the tightrope: women cardiologists in an old boys’ club”

Women’s heart disease: an awareness campaign fail?

by Carolyn Thomas       @HeartSisters

I’ve been thinking a lot about awareness-raising lately because of a bombshell report  from the 2019 American Heart Association National Survey released this month.(1)  Among other completely demoralizing findings, this report found that women’s awareness of their most common heart attack risks and symptoms has significantly declined from a prior survey done 10 years earlier. How is that even possible?   .      .     .  Continue reading “Women’s heart disease: an awareness campaign fail?”

“There is no gender bias in medicine. Because I said so…”

by Carolyn Thomas   @HeartSisters 

When my heart sister Katherine Leon was featured in The New York Times earlier this year, I was thrilled. Katherine, like me, is a graduate of the WomenHeart Science & Leadership patient advocacy training at Mayo Clinic. She told the Times of undergoing emergency coronary bypass surgery at age 38, several days after her textbook cardiac symptoms had first been dismissed by doctors who told her, “There’s nothing wrong with you.”     .
Continue reading ““There is no gender bias in medicine. Because I said so…””