March 7, 2023

Women in Medicine share their experiences

The Libin Institute's female members are world-class physicians, researchers

Studies show that women in medicine tend to be very collaborative and focused on advocacy. Their patients report successful outcomes and high rates of satisfaction.

The Libin Cardiovascular celebrates its female physicians and researchers on Canadian Women's Physicians Day. Our female members are leaders in cardiovascular clinical care, research and education. They are improving the lives of their patients and furthering their research programs every day. 

Continue reading for a peak into why these three women chose medicine, what they love about it, and how they see the future of women in medicine. These three clinician researchers range in experience from early to mid and late career.

Dr. Sandi Dumanski - Early Career 

Dr. Sandi Dumanski, MD, is a kidney doctor and researcher. Her research lab focuses on how an individual’s reproductive health impacts their cardiovascular and kidney risk. She has a special interest in fertility, especially how infertility, fertility hormones and fertility treatments affect the cardiovascular system, and, more importantly, how cardiovascular and kidney health can be improved despite fertility or reproductive health challenges.

Dumanski’s love of medicine centers around her passion both learning and helping others. Every day, she is honoured to be part of the health journey of each of her patients, to collaborate with an amazing team of clinicians and scientists and to have the opportunity to learn, both in the clinic and the lab. 

“I am truly privileged,” she says. “I love getting to know my patients - and sometimes their families too - and really celebrate when I see them succeed in their health. I also work hard to help them navigate through difficult times.”

Dumanski says women in medicine still face a variety of unique challenges related to gender bias, which may manifest as reduced leadership opportunities, increased administrative burden or stagnated career growth. She feels that learning more about gender bias as a community and developing strategies to improve equity for women in medicine is the way forward.

For Dumanski, the future for women is bright.

“Within the next 10 years, half of all Canadian physicians will be women,” she says, noting studies show that women in medicine tend to be very collaborative and focused on advocacy and their patients report successful outcomes and high rates of satisfaction.

“I foresee that women in medicine will continue to drive the field of medicine forward, develop new technologies and treatments and provide exceptional care to their patients.” 

Dr. Sarah Weeks - Mid Career

Dr. Sarah Weeks, MD, is a cardiologist and researcher specializing in cardiac intensive care and cardiac imaging. Her research focuses on medical education, where she looks for evidence-based ways to enhance the learning and experience for medical students.

Weeks is passionate about using science and compassion to support the health of her patients and beyond and says it’s a privilege to help and learn from patients and their families.

Hearing the stories of her patients, working with dedicated and talented teams and improving the student experience is what gets her excited about going to work every day.

As a female physician, Weeks says there is still room to improve the structures and behaviours within medicine to allow women to reach their full potential and be fulfilled.  

“Female physicians still suffer from a gender pay gap, less leadership opportunities and difficult work-life balance,” says Weeks.

Weeks hopes the time is right for leadership in medicine to make the changes necessary to open the ceiling for women, who, although they make up 50 per cent or more of the total enrollment in medical school, haven’t reached equitability or equitability in several domains within medicine.

Weeks believes it’s important that women make gains in this area.

“Having women, as well as other diverse perspectives, will make medicine stronger and improve the health of society,” she says.

Dr. Katherine Kavanagh - Late Career

Dr. Katherine Kavanagh, MD, is a researcher and cardiologist with a specialty in adult cardiac electrophysiology.

She feels privileged to have a career in medicine, where she can help people, often when they need it the most.

Kavanagh’s research activities focused on cardiac arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death. She is now more focused on ensuring the next generation of cardiologists are successful through her leadership in the Cardiology Residency Training program.

Every day, Kavanagh is excited to go to work. Everything she does, from caring for patients to teaching, mentoring and advocating for patients, trainees and resources and reviewing grants and manuscripts is satisfying as they help her learn and grow. For Kavanagh life is never boring with the multitude of challenges she meets and addresses.

Kavanagh believes the future of women in medicine is very bright.

“There is nothing we cannot accomplish,” she says.

The Importance of having diversity in all areas of medicine is now being recognized.  Kavanagh says that changes mandated by new EDI initiatives are not in and of themselves enough, and that the barriers to success need to be identified and addressed.

“Our female faculty and trainees need the mentoring of both female and male colleagues to foster the skills and address the barriers that will enable them to step forward and be successful in portfolios traditionally held by male counterparts,” says Kavanagh.