CINCINNATI—Laura Wexler, MD, professor of medicine in the division of cardiovascular diseases, received the 2011 Women in Cardiology Mentoring Award from the American Heart Association’s (AHA) Council on Clinical Cardiology.
The award was presented at the annual Clinical Cardiology Council Dinner at the AHA’s Scientific Sessions 2011 in Orlando, Fla., Saturday, Nov. 12.
Initiated by the Women in Cardiology Committee, the award is given annually to recognize individuals who have an outstanding record of effectively mentoring women cardiologists and to underscore the importance of mentoring in the professional development of women.
"I’m truly honored to have been nominated for this award—and by two very bright and talented physicians,” she says.
Wexler was nominated by Emelia Benjamin, MD, a professor of epidemiology at Boston University, and Elyse Foster, MD, a professor of medicine and director of both the adult echocardiography laboratory and adult congenital heart disease service at the University of California, San Francisco. Both physicians were residents under the direction of Wexler at Boston University Hospital.
Wexler received her medical degree from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. After an internal medicine internship and residency at Boston City Hospital, she completed a clinical and research fellowship in cardiology at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
She joined the faculty of Boston University School of Medicine and was an investigator in the Cardiac Muscle Research Laboratory with Carl Apstein, MD,—former recipient of this award who was nominated by Wexler in 2004—until she moved to the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and served as section chief of cardiology at the Cincinnati Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center.
After serving as interim chair of the division of cardiology, Wexler was appointed senior associate dean of student affairs and admissions and served in this position for 10 years until her recent retirement from the Dean’s Office in the summer of 2011.
Wexler now devotes her time to teaching students, residents and fellows at the VA Medical Center, where she serves as associate program chair for the internal medicine residency program. She is creating a new curriculum in cardiology as part of the comprehensive curriculum reform project at the medical school and continues her clinical research activities which focus on sleep apnea in patients with congestive heart failure.
"Cardiology is such a gratifying field,” says Wexler. "Cardiac disease is always a serious matter, and I like helping patients with a life-altering disease. Making a diagnosis is a lot like detective work: There are so many clues within cardiology, the history, the physical exam, the ECG, advanced imaging and more, but then you usually get an answer.”
She says that mentorship is so important and something that needs to be sought out by all physicians.
"In my generation, women were not good about presenting their accomplishments and often kept their successes quiet, hoping to get recognized without making them known,” she says. "I urge women and all physicians to not to be shy about being ambitious. Know your goals and work toward them. Ask successful people how they got there and develop a plan.”
Although she says the field of cardiology is still short on numbers of women, Wexler says she’s seen growth within the AHA’s Women in Cardiology Committee, which is a step in the right direction.
"I was one of only three women accepted for an internship at Boston City Hospital (BCH) in 1971, the first they had ever accepted, and I remember my interviewer asking me, ‘Are you tough?’ because they were uncertain if we could or should deal with the issues of a large city hospital," she says. "I returned to BCH in 1976 as an attending physician and remember the first time I had an entire female ward team. It was 1980, and I was just blown away at the change in nine years.
"Women are continuing to come through the ranks, and it is very exciting to see more and more make their mark on the field. I’m happy that I was and can continue to be a part of it.”