Newswise — LOS ANGELES (Jan. 8, 2020) -- 2020 is barely underway, but it's already shaping up to be the "Year of Women" in cardiology.

Christine Albert, MD, MPH, founding chair of the newly established Department of Cardiology at the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai, was recently named President-elect of the Heart Rhythm Society, a prominent association of cardiac electrophysiology physicians, researchers, and allied health professionals focused on treatment and prevention of heart rhythm disorders.

And Albert is not alone. A slew of women cardiologists are serving as current, or incoming, presidents of top heart organizations, including the American College of Cardiology, American Society of Echocardiography, American Society of Nuclear Cardiology and European Society of Cardiology.

"It is fantastic to see a group of women rise to this level," said Albert, who begins her term with the Heart Rhythm Society in May 2020. "Ten years ago, it would have been unheard of to witness multiple female leaders simultaneously serving in these top ranked positions."

As president-elect of the Heart Rhythm Society, Albert will enact the organization's strategic goals to advance education, clinical care, research and advocacy directed at ending death and suffering from heart rhythm disorders. The role, Albert says, also will allow her to better advocate on a national level for Smidt Heart Institute patients and physicians.

The group of heart leaders includes:

  • Athena Poppas, MD, president, American College of Cardiology
  • ​Judy Hung, MD, president, American Society of Echocardiography
  • Maully Shah, MD, president, Pediatric and Congenital Electrophysiology Society
  • Sharmila Dorbala, MD, MPH, president, American Society of Nuclear Cardiology
  • Andrea Russo, MD, outgoing president, Heart Rhythm Society
  • Barbara Casadei, MD, president, European Society of Cardiology

"These female-occupied roles are certainly a change in medicine," said Judy Hung, MD, who is director of Echocardiography at Massachusetts General Hospital and professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, in addition to serving as president of the American Society of Echocardiography. "Cardiology remains predominantly male, but female leaders, role models and mentors are on the rise."

In addition to Albert, Cedars-Sinai also recently named heart surgeon Joanna Chikwe, MD, as chair of the newly established Department of Cardiac Surgery in the Smidt Heart Institute. Chikwe's appointment recognizes her major standing as an international leader in cardiovascular surgery with clinical expertise and major scholarly contributions in advanced heart valve repair, coronary revascularization and minimally invasive heart procedures.

"In terms of diversity, the field of cardiology has always lagged behind," said Albert, who has made seminal clinical and scholarly contributions toward better understanding heart rhythm disorders. "But Cedars-Sinai has always been a step ahead, with a culture that appreciates and celebrates diversity in medicine."

Read more in Discoveries: Heart Rhythm Revelations