Surbhi Chamaria, MD
Part of the first all-female live case at CRT 2018, this fellow has a passion for mentoring the next generation and closing the gender gap in cardiology.
Surbhi Chamaria, MD, is completing a 2-year interventional cardiology fellowship at Mount Sinai Hospital and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (New York, NY), and will be moving to Mercy Clinic (Fort Smith, AR) to begin a hospital-based faculty position affiliated with the Arkansas School of Medicine this summer. Originally from India, Chamaria was educated at Kasturba Medical College (Mangalore, India) and finished her internal medicine and cardiology training at Henry Ford Hospital (Detroit, MI) and LSU Health Science Center (Shreveport, LA), respectively. She is passionate about education and technology and has contributed to the development of a medical education app, Bifurcaid, which offers a step-by-step approach to treating coronary bifurcation lesions and is currently available for download. Chamaria was also part of the all-female cath lab team that performed a live case to some fanfare at the CRT 2018 meeting. She envisions a long career in academic interventional cardiology where she can mentor future generations of physicians and especially encourage women in the field.
Why did you decide to train in interventional cardiology?
I came to the United States to do interventional cardiology. During my rotations in medical school in India, cardiology was the one field that really, really interested me because it was all about logic. Valvular heart disease and coronary disease are extremely prevalent in India, so as a student and after medical school I had the chance to rotate through the cardiac ICU, the catheterization lab, and the STEMI team. That’s when I realized that this is actually my passion. Because it's procedure-driven, it gives immense satisfaction to be able to help save a life almost instantly. It was because of the adrenaline rush and the complexity attached to this field that I wanted to pursue interventional cardiology.
What has surprised you the most about becoming an interventional cardiologist?
While most cardiologists have type A personalities, the one thing I have learned is that the more patient and humble you are, the better you are able to treat your patients. There is so much instant gratification in the field that we often want to jump at everything that we see, but what I've learned is that you need to take your time, listen to your patients, talk with them, and get a good history. At the end of the day it's all about patients, it's not about you.
What drives your passion to mentor women in cardiology?
Cardiology is a very male-dominated field, and there are very few women who have chosen interventional careers. I’ve been inspired by Dr. Annapoorna Kini, a leader at my institution and in interventional cardiology overall, who is one of the very few women who against all odds has reached the pinnacle of success in this field. Women tend to steer clear of interventional cardiology due to lifestyle reasons. There are challenges associated with the field in that it requires a lot of physical and mental strength and long working hours, and for a woman to be able to balance her personal and professional lives can be very daunting in such a demanding field. Having said that, it's not impossible. It just requires the right kind of mentoring. This is what drives me to mentor aspiring cardiologists. I was lucky to be surrounded by people who provided me with the kind of support and mentorship I needed to get here, and now I feel that it is my turn to pay it forward. There are many more young women who are pursuing medicine compared with 20 years ago, and they will be at the crossroads of career-making decisions. It is our responsibility as an interventional community to enable them to move through this career path with the right kind of guidance to help narrow the gender inequality gap.
What would you say to a female trainee thinking about going into cardiology who might have concerns?
One, I would say that you need to be passionate about the field. Irrespective of which field of medicine you choose, you need to be driven. With cardiology, life and work are constantly pushing and pulling. There may be a few years of your life that you may have to sacrifice when it comes to your career, but you can jump right back in. Having a family and having a career are not mutually exclusive. They go hand in hand. You just have to be focused, dedicated, have the dream, and then work toward living that dream.
What was it like for you to be part of the historic all-female cath lab live case team at CRT 2018?
It was a moment of great pride. Mount Sinai does a lot of live cases for many conferences, and in almost all of them you can see that the operators and panelists are mostly men. This was a great opportunity to prove that women in interventional cardiology are equally skilled. I really thank Dr. Ron Waksman for initiating this event. I am very proud to be part of the interventional cardiology community of women who constantly strive to be great physicians and dedicate their lives to help patients. I hope that many more such live cases are done as they would be great opportunities for aspiring young interventionalists to gain insight into the field.
How do you see the interventional field changing in the next 5 years?
Interventional cardiology is branching out into different areas, and the biggest growth area in the field right now is structural interventions. We've started doing minimally invasive aortic valve procedures not that long ago, and now we have trials that include patients at low surgical risk and treatment options for patients with mitral and tricuspid valve disease as well. In the next 5 years, I think we will be able to expand our reach to many more patients, and interventional cardiologists will be able to provide a better quality of life for patients who otherwise do not have treatment options.
Looking back, who would you say has had the biggest impact on your career and why?
I don't know if I could pinpoint one particular person. I've met a lot of people through my journey from medical school onwards who have impacted my decisions and the way I look at life personally and professionally. My mentors from general cardiology training made me realize that it's all about the patients—listen to your patients, talk to your patients, and spend time with them because they will tell you their story. By being tuned in with your patients, you’re going to be able to make the most informed decisions. In my interventional career, Dr. Kini has been a great mentor. Being a woman as well and having been through the rigorous training, she knows what my journey ahead looks like. Not only has she taught me interventions and honed my skills, we have also had discussions about how to balance my personal and professional lives going forward. The biggest thing that I learned from my mentors through my journey is that hard work, dedication, discipline, and focus can help you get to your goals. Lastly, of course my parents have always stood by me over this long journey, and without their emotional and mental support this would have been an unachievable task.
What is something that people might not know about you?
I come across as a very strong woman, but I’m very emotional and sensitive.
What her nominator, Annapoorna Kini, MD (Mount Sinai Hospital), says:
Dr. Surbhi Chamaria started as an interventional/research fellow at Mount Sinai, New York, in 2016, and during these 2 years of her training she has been able to demonstrate a great deal of skill and knowledge. She is an excellent fellow in all aspects. As a research fellow, she was one of the few fellows who were able to publish multiple manuscripts in well reputed journals, present at interventional meetings, and was instrumental in developing the Bifurcaid app. During her clinical year she has shown tremendous skills in the cath lab and is very competent and dexterous in her technique. She has good decision-making with respect to her clinical knowledge that transforms into her procedures. Her skill and confidence levels have increased and she is very comfortable in independently performing simple to complex cases. She is hardworking and professional. She has been the primary operator in a myriad of complex interventions under my supervision. I have watched her perform large-bore access with great ease and she has also increased her level of skill in approaching CTOs. She is extremely pleasant to work with, is very diligent and proficient. It has been a pleasure to work with her. I am proud of her continued progress as a female fellow who is a role model for all aspiring female interventional cardiologists. She was part of the CRT all-women team live case with me and it was successful. That accomplishment is definitely a feather in her cap.
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