Banner–University Medicine Heart Institute's Martha Gulati is improving women's heart health

(Jon Shaw)

Martha Gulati, M.D., Physician Executive Director at Banner–University Medicine Heart Institute

Age: “I don’t like numbers anymore.”

Education: She earned her bachelor's from McMaster University in Canada and her medical degree from the University of Toronto in Canada. She completed her internship, residency, and fellowship at the University of Chicago and has a master's from the University of Chicago.

About her: Her significant contributions to women’s cardiac health are becoming widely recognized. In the past three years, she has spearheaded the building of an entire division of cardiology at the Banner–University Medicine Heart Institute, the only academic medical center in Phoenix, helping to bring it from an unranked institution to a rank of 43rd in the nation for cardiology in 2018-19 by U.S. News and World Report. She has made an impact on improving women’s heart health and promoting gender equity in the field of cardiology, including her leadership of the first and only Women’s Heart Center in Phoenix, along with her rigorous research to advance the understanding of cardiovascular disease in women. She is founding chief of cardiology at the University of Arizona-Phoenix.

She was honored with the 2019 Bernadine Healy Leadership in Women’s Cardiovascular Disease Award by the American College of Cardiology and was also named one of Arizona’s most influential women by AZ Big Media. In 2019, she was invited to speak on sex differences in cardiovascular disease and on women’s cardiovascular health at medical conferences across the globe. She has become one of the most influential cardiologists on Twitter, with more than 21,000 followers.

First job: Cardiologist

Accomplishment she’s most proud of: "I would probably have to say my thesis after my cardiology fellowship at University of Chicago, because of so many things. One, my course work taught me so much, allowing me to pursue studying women’s hearts and using statistics to analyze data. Two, I learned to question what was presumed to be known, specifically, regarding women and cardiovascular disease. Since women weren’t studied, there was no reason to assume what we presumed were normal values in women. And by asking the question, I found out that surprise, surprise, women are not men! Three, ultimately my work got published in the New England Journal of Medicine, and this opened so many doors for me.

"Nonetheless, more recently, what makes me very proud is helping others more junior to me succeed. Growing the next generation of cardiologists is important to me. I am encouraged by the fact that more women are entering the field and I try to help anyone I can. Additionally, seeing more diversity in our field is also important. I hope I can contribute in some small part to making our medical specialty represent the people we care for. Mentoring and lifting up each other is so important, and I feel like we must give back in this way to those junior to us."

Problem she’s most passionate about trying to solve: "Equity in healthcare, specifically in women’s cardiovascular care, but in all of healthcare. Women are second-class citizens when it comes to healthcare. They are understudied, undertreated and often die more frequently from diseases than men. This is the case in heart disease. We need to change this. We need to empower women to know this and to demand better!"

Book she recommends: “Bad Feminist” by Roxane Gay. "It resonates with me because we seek perfection, but we are imperfect beings. I am a feminist but sometimes I am a bad feminist too. For me, my feminism is complex, messy, evolved, flawed, complicated, but it is mine. And I am proudly a feminist. I am just sometimes bad at it too. So, if you’ve ever felt like this, this is a great book that will resonate with you."

Advice she’d give her younger self: "My goodness, if only I could have spoken to my younger self! I would tell her don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid to take risks. Don’t be afraid of what people might think. They probably are too absorbed in themselves to worry about what you think anyway! Don’t be afraid of what you believe and to voice it. Stand up for yourself. Stand up for others. Don’t compare yourself to anyone but who you are today. Find time to tell your family you love them. Find time to love yourself. Believe you are good enough. Because you are."

What she’d do with her career if it wasn’t this: "I honestly can’t imagine doing anything else. My heart was meant to follow other hearts and take care of them."

Banner–University Medicine Heart Institute's Martha Gulati is improving women's heart health

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