The Women Committee of the European Association of Percutaneous Cardiovascular Interventions (EAPCI) has been set up to attain gender equality in interventional cardiology at the professional and patient level. The chair of the committee, Julinda Mehilli (Munich University Clinic, Ludwig-Maximilian University, Munich, Germany), speaks to Cardiovascular News about why the comparative lack of women in interventional cardiology means that the specialty is “losing more than 50% of the talent pool”.
Why was the Women Committee of the EAPCI formed?
Despite the fact that the majority of medical students are women, only few of them choose the interventional cardiology path—the committee wants to change this. Another reason for setting up the committee is to examine the gender-related differences in coronary artery disease mortality, which is mostly based on underdiagnosing and under-treatment of coronary artery disease in women.
What are the main objectives of the committee?
Our mission is to attain gender equality at the professional and patient level. Therefore, our main objectives are:
– To encourage female physicians to choose interventional cardiology as a career and help them to achieve equal career chances as men
– To increase awareness among the interventional and research community about gender-related disparities in diagnosis and treatment of cardiac patients
– To support systematic enrolment of women in clinical trials and to ensure the consideration of women in all aspects of scientific literature, whether clinical trials, guidelines or regulatory processes
– To develop educational programmes on gender-based issues in interventional cardiology.
In your view, why do more female physicians need to be encouraged to work in the field of interventional cardiology?
Interventional cardiology is continually changing and is becoming an essential part of treatment of both coronary artery disease and structural disease. Innovative and hard-working physicians are required to cope with the challenges of modern interventional cardiology and to develop further this rapidly changing field. Without women, the field of interventional cardiology loses more than 50% of the talent pool.
What do you think are the potential barriers that prevent women from choosing interventional cardiology as a specialty?
In Europe, the organisation of daily routine in interventional cardiology is very inflexible and comprises unplanned long working hours. It is very difficult for women, particularly the ones with children, to coordinate job and family life under these circumstances.
How can these barriers be overcome?
Women bring many positive features in their job—they are hard workers, well organised and contribute to a pleasant working atmosphere. This is what is required in the demanding job of being an interventionalist. However, a female cardiologist is seldom encouraged to take the interventional path in career or supported in her wish to become an interventionalist. This is just because she bears the potential to get pregnant. We need to change this mentality, which unfortunately is still all too common.
Additionally, institutions should make available childcare facilities in their buildings to increase the working flexibility of women with children. Also, we need to better inform women regarding the radiation exposure and the adequate use of protective shields.
The committee is currently conducting a survey about women working in interventional cardiology. What are the aims of this survey?
This survey will help the committee to assess the situation; and will probably influence future actions and projects of the committee.