Meet Sarah

Meet Dr Sarah Zaman, Interventional Consultant Cardiologist at Monash Health and academic at Monash University. Sarah has an exceptional research background with a PhD targeting prevention of sudden cardiac death in patients who have suffered a heart attack.

She also leads research on the recognition and management of heart disease in women. As part of her ongoing research, Sarah has received an Early Career Fellowship with Monash University, is a Robertson Family Research cardiologist, and has been an invited podium speaker at the Cardiac Society of Australia and New Zealand.

She has presented at over 15 national and international conferences and has over 25 publications in high impact journals. She is a lead investigator for the PROTECT-ICD trial, a multicentre international randomised trial targeting prevention of sudden death.

What is your role at Monash Health?

I am an academic interventional cardiologist at Monash Heart and Monash University. Through my clinical role I provide inpatient and outpatient cardiology care, supervise junior medical staff on the wards and perform stenting procedures in the catheterisation laboratory. This includes performing on call for acute heart attacks that require emergency stenting. I am also a doctor-researcher and spend 50% of my time researching prevention of sudden cardiac death in survivors of a heart attack as well as improving outcomes in women with heart disease.

International Women’s Day is all about unity, celebration, reflection, advocacy and action. Why is celebrating women important to you?

I think it is important to raise awareness of the issues facing women in the workplace – and also to show what we are doing about them. It is also a great opportunity to meet other like minded women and hear their stories.

Why is gender equity important to you both personally and in the workplace?

I think that we all should strive for equity – be it gender equity, racial or cultural equity, we all benefit from being part of an inclusive culture. In my workplace – cardiology, gender disparity is a huge issue – women comprise only 15% of cardiologists, and less than 5% of interventional cardiologists in Australia. Studies have shown that there is also a gender gap in the outcomes of women with heart disease where our female patients actually receive less appropriate medical therapy and have worse clinical outcomes. Improving gender equity in the cardiology workforce has been shown as a powerful way to improve outcomes of our female patients with heart disease.

The theme of International Women’s Day 2019 is Balance for Better. Is there something in your team that you do to ensure gender balance and gender equity?

We have started a women in cardiology group in Victoria and Australia/New Zealand that focuses on improving gender balance within the profession of cardiology. We have done this with regular networking events and the development of strategies to identify the barriers women doing cardiology, and the ways we can overcome them. Within Monash Heart we now have a new leader – Prof Steve Nicolls who has a strong focus on improving gender equity within the department and will help me lead a Women’s Heart Disease program starting in 2019.

Your article on Women in Medicine Gender Gap in Interventional Cardiology is very insightful. What made you passionate about gender equity in cardiology?

As one of only 17 female interventional cardiologists in Australia there is a huge gender gap in interventional cardiology (women make up <5% of the workforce). When we performed the above study, we were shocked to discover there had been more female prime ministers in New Zealand then there have been female interventional cardiologists! Every interventional cardiology conference I attended, I was struck by how few women there were – it was (and still is) common to see ‘manels’ ie all male panels in every symposium, with little to no female chairs or speakers. I also frequently heard about other fellows or trainees receiving inappropriate questions during interviews on pregnancy or child-rearing.

In 2018 myself and a few other like-minded cardiologists formed a Women in Cardiology group to identify and address the issues leading to this severe gender disparity. We published the data in JACC in order to increase awareness of the gender gap, and to start a conversation on the reasons for it – and how we can address it. As one of so few female interventional cardiologists I am passionate about being a role model, encouraging junior female doctors to pursue their chosen specialty and providing opportunities for them to enter training. I feel that interventional cardiology is such a rewarding and challenging career, and I want this career to be available to as many women, as men, who want to pursue it.

What advice would you give to aspiring females in cardiology?

I would recommend finding a mentor in the specialty who can help drive your career – a mentor who will give you opportunities in the clinical and/or research arena and who gives you positive encouragement. I would also recommend joining our group and attending our networking events.

How have you managed work life balance being the only (female) interventional cardiologist at Monash Heart?

It is hard – but possible if you prioritise the main things that are important to you, and manage your time accordingly. On top of work and research, I prioritise my family (mainly my three-year old son!), playing touch footy and exercising … Of course having children, and the best timing for children, is tough at any stage of a medical career. Then balancing your career once you have them is even tougher! But it can work, and having either a good family network or a good nanny/childcare makes it easier!

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