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Ireland has one of the lowest numbers of female cardiologists in Europe, as part of our Go Red for Women campaign, we are celebrating some of the leading women who are looking after Ireland’s hearts, starting with Dr Angie Brown, Medical Director of the Irish Heart Foundation.
Dr Angie Brown is a consultant cardiologist in the Bons Hospital in Dublin and Medical Director of the Irish Heart Foundation.
A graduate of Cambridge University in the UK, Dr Brown’s passion for and interest in medicine came from her father who was an orthopaedic surgeon.
She worked as an auxiliary nurse in the summer holidays from medical school which she said gave her a better understanding of all the different aspects of patient care.
When it came to decide which area of medicine to specialise in, Dr Brown said she was torn between surgery and cardiology, but surgery’s loss was cardiology’s gain, as she was drawn to the mix of investigational medicine and interventional cardiology offered by cardiology.
Dr Brown’s day starts early at 8am where she carries out cardiac procedures in the Cath lab such as coronary angiograms, the insertion of loop recorders (device which allows regular or unusual heart rhythms to be recorded) transoesophageal echocardiograms (an ultrasound scan which looks at the structure and function of your heart) and cardioversions (a procedure that restores normal heart rhythm).
In the afternoon she sees patients in her clinic and then visits inpatients in the hospital.
“Cardiology is an exciting and interesting speciality in which we can make a great difference to patients’ quality of life, so it is very rewarding."
Dr Brown said she has faced challenges as a female cardiologist, but she added “fortunately they have never limited me” and while she acknowledged that cardiology like surgery has always been very male dominated, this she said was changing rapidly.
Dr Brown said she would encourage anyone to go into cardiology if they were passionate about it however, she warned that it didn’t come without its challenges.
“Cardiology is an exciting and interesting speciality in which we can make a great difference to patients’ quality of life, so it is very rewarding. However, medicine and in particular cardiology, can be difficult with long hours, a long training programme often with an overseas component and it is highly competitive for the best jobs. This makes it difficult for both men and women with families as they often have to live in separate countries to their family for part of their training.”
According to Dr Brown, cardiology is becoming increasingly super-specialised thanks to a number of new advances in areas such as interventional cardiology, imaging, electrophysiology, heart failure treatment and prevention as well as better equipment technology and medicines.
“People are also living much longer so their medical issues are also more complex. This makes decision making more difficult but also much more satisfying as we can practice evidence-based medicine which we know will help both the quality and longevity of our patients lives which makes this a very rewarding career.”
“Remember, it's usually not the fancy stuff that makes you live longer, it's about the basics: weight, cholesterol, blood pressure, being active, quitting smoking and knowing your family history."
Welcoming the Irish Heart Foundation’s ‘Go Red for Women’ campaign, Dr Brown said that women spend a lot of time looking after their families but it’s important they also look after themselves.
“Women tend to ignore any symptoms so, we are trying to raise awareness of heart disease in women, as nearly one in four women in Ireland will die from cardiovascular disease, yet many women still view a heart attack as mainly a man’s problem. Most women are more concerned about breast cancer even though six times as many women die from heart disease and stroke than they do from breast cancer in Ireland each year. Many women are unaware that they are protected by their hormones and it is not until after the menopause, that a woman’s risk of heart disease and stroke catches up with that of a man’s. After the menopause, women are at risk of heart attack and stroke, as much as any man.”
As a female cardiologist Dr Brown said the best advice, she could give to women was to to attend for regular check-ups and to make lifestyle changes to prevent increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
“I hope the Irish Heart Foundation’s Go Red for Women campaign will help to raise awareness of heart disease in women so they will seek medical attention promptly if they have any concerning symptoms such as breathlessness or chest pain and dial 999 if they think they may be having a heart attack,” Dr Brown concluded.
For more information on the Go Red for Women please see here.
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