Angela Lowenstern, MD
Currently training in interventional cardiology, this fellow was inspired to pursue medicine through her love of physiology.
Angela Lowenstern, MD, is an interventional cardiology fellow at Duke University (Durham, NC), where she also trained in internal medicine and general cardiology and completed a 2-year clinical research fellowship. She was educated at the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, MI), near where she was born and raised. Next year, Lowenstern plans to stay at the Duke University to be the institution’s structural heart interventional fellow. She has a passion for research and innovation, winning several awards from her institution and outside organizations for various projects and publishing more than a dozen articles in peer-reviewed journals. After training, Lowenstern would like to pursue a career in academics doing both coronary and structural procedures as well as conducting research.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I grew up in Michigan, where I stayed for my undergrad and medical school. I first became interested in medicine in high school after taking an animal physiology class—I was really intrigued by the science behind medicine and how a body works. I enrolled premed as an undergrad, although I didn’t decide on internal medicine or even cardiology until my third year of medical school when I started my clinical rotations. I tried to keep an open mind coming to Duke for my medicine residency about what subspecialty I might pursue, but we did a lot of cardiology training and I absolutely loved it. I loved the physiology, and I thought it simply made a lot of sense. I was also enthralled with the therapeutic options we can give to patients where disease processes can be altered whether with a stent, a percutaneous valve procedure, or a heart transplant. From there, I initially thought that I would pursue cardiac critical care because I really enjoyed taking care of patients in the CCU—often the sickest in the hospital—during training. I also really enjoyed doing procedures, so I wasn't surprised when I started my cath rotation that I absolutely fell in love with the cath lab. It also helped that I had great mentorship from the faculty in the cath lab.
How has doing research shaped your experience as a trainee?
I started conducting research in undergrad, although that was more basic science. I transitioned to clinical research in medical school, residency, and obviously in fellowship. Research is really interesting and fun because it gives us the opportunity to explore new ways to take care of patients and to evaluate disease processes. Whether it's a large clinical trial or a small observational study, just getting that new information to guide us in the best way to take care of our patients is a great supplement to the bedside work we do.
What has been the biggest challenge for you to get to where you are now?
The biggest challenge for me has probably been balance. As a trainee, there are a lot of pulls for time and activities, whether it be clinical patient care versus research. It has been a big challenge to be able to balance those and try to do a really good job at everything. It's hard to do everything and so it's just making decisions about what's the most important task at that moment. Whether I’m at the bedside taking care of a patient or working on a research project that will help inform future patient care, I think it's a balance of time and energy in terms of how to best do that.
What have been your tricks for finding that balance?
I keep really good lists. I'm very detail oriented about making sure I try to stay on top of everything, and I think that's helpful in terms of keeping track of everything. When I'm on my clinical rotations, the most important thing is the patient in front of me and doing the work at the hospital because if that were my family member, that's what I would want their physician to be doing as well. At home, I have a 16-month old son, so that's been a new challenging balance! I have a really supportive spouse who helps me and helps our family, and that's been really key in helping me find balance.
What is the best piece of advice you've received from a mentor?
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve received was from an attending that I was rounding with during my general medicine training. It's very simple advice: be kind and listen. This goes a long way no matter what field you're working in, but particularly in medicine we have this unique job where we get to see people's lives, including parts where they may be at their most vulnerable. It's our job as physicians to look after them, but showing care and listening can also lead to determining what is going on with that patient. Simply taking the time to hear their story can be critically important to their overall care picture.
What is something that people might now know about you?
I played softball during high school but unfortunately was unable to continue due to a shoulder dislocation during one of our games that eventually led to two shoulder surgeries. During my fellowship at Duke, one of my co-fellows started a cardiology softball team that plays in the Durham community recreational league. I really enjoyed getting back on the field and playing alongside my co-fellows, sonographers, nurses, and attendings.
What her nominator Sunil Rao, MD (Duke Clinical Research Institute, Durham, NC), says:
Dr. Lowenstern is a true triple threat—she is an excellent clinician, a fantastic teacher, and a prolific researcher. What I have found most impressive is the rapport she develops with patients and their families. She’s learned quickly that the most important aspect of interventional cardiology is making sure that the patient is on the table for the right reasons.
*To nominate a stellar cardiology fellow for the Featured Fellow section of TCTMD’s Fellows Forum, click here.