Challenges of Being a Woman Cardiologists with Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum

by Ari Schonbrun

Challenges of Being a Woman Cardiologists with Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum



Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum is an attending cardiologist and the Director of Women and Heart Disease of Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. She has done fellowship training in both Preventive Cardiology and Cardiology. She is board certified in Internal Medicine and Cardiology, with a subspecialty in Prevention and Women and Heart disease. She was the Director of the Center for Cardiac and Pulmonary Health, for cardiac rehabilitation and lifestyle management at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York prior to joining Lenox Hill.


Episode Transcription:


(Intro plays)


Ari: Welcome to whispers in bricks. My name is Ari Schonbrun and I am your host I have with me today Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum. A dear friend of mine met her several years ago. She’s an amazing, amazing woman. Let me just give you tell you a little bit about her. She’s an attending cardiologist specializing in prevention. She is in private practice in New York City and is the president of Sr s heart, a personalized lifestyle management program using anatomy, physiology, functional data, genetics and metabolism along with technology to reach ultimate cardiovascular health. She is the author of Dr. Suzanne Stein VAMS heart book, every woman’s guide to a heart healthy life, teaching all women how to lead the healthiest lives by Living from the heart. She has been awarded in New York Times super Dr. A castle and currently top doctor for cardiovascular disease, and New York Magazine’s prestigious best doctors in the New York edition. She is often a guest on the network television show The doctors and has been a guest on Good Morning America and the view. She has hosted a television show called focus on health and developed an app called My Wanda. She has been an editor for WebMD and has been involved in all aspects of media communication and education in the pursuit of helping women empower themselves to live their best lives in 2021 should be launching our unique prevention program in Lake County, California, the ninth poorest county in the country. Her desire is to demonstrate improvement in outcomes with aggressive prevention and early diagnosis. In spite of geographical disparities, the goal is to demonstrate the need for insurance to cover preventive health for women, independent of the zip code. There is so much more that Suzanne has done if I read her entire bio won’t be any time for the interview. So with that, please help me welcome Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum.


Suzanne: Thank you. Thanks for having me.


Ari: Hi, Suzanne. So how have you been?


Suzanne: I’m good. Yeah, yeah,


I gotta tell you just reading your bio, I know that you’re a very, very busy person. And I really want to thank you for coming on the show.


Suzanne:Oh, my gosh, I remember the day we met. And I am so appreciative that you reached out


Ari: Well, as you know, the name of this podcast is whispers in bricks, the whispers of those voices telling you what the right thing to do is and represent the good things in life. The bricks represent the bad things in life that we go through. Now we all go through, we all have bricks thrown at us. I mean, my biggest brick obviously was 911. But quick question before we actually get into that area of what I’m looking at, but Question one, at what point in your life? Did you know that medicine was going to be a career path? And how did it happen?


Suzanne: Well, this is a story, I think that I would be remiss not to say that I grew up in a family of doctors, and I My grandfather was in private practice. And he had the office connected to his house. So my first playground was hanging out with patients. And I actually always say, I don’t remember a day on this planet, without patients in it. My father is a retired oncologist back in the day before cell phones. So patients called the house directly. I used to hang out with him in the hospital on weekends. The big joke was, I worked with him a little bit in my training, and I went in to see one of his patients and I said, Dad, I think the hearts irregular. And he’s like the heart. What are you looking at the heart and we knew that eventually I would probably end up where I ended up in cardiology. But I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. I really wasn’t and at some point in college, it became very clear to me that being a doctor was a little genetic for some of us, and that I was going to end up going to medical school and and going down that path.


Ari: like at what point in college. Did you make that decision? Was it freshman sophomore junior senior? In November


Suzanne: late? Yes, I remember specifically. So a little backstory on me. i i was in the arts. And I was a dancer, and I was on stage performing all the time. And I auditioned for a show my freshman year. And I was one of two freshmen to get the part. And I was in the cast with other other cast mates who ended up on Broadway. And when I compared myself to them as a freshman, I thought, I’m really good, but I’m not them. And I had enough understanding to know that there was a difference and really started to think about what else I wanted to do. So the light kinda went on sort of freshman sophomore year.


Okay, the reason I asked that question, because as you know, my daughter is an OB GYN. And she made the decision to go to medical school, when she was a senior in college between her junior and senior year. So I think she took the MCAT in her senior year. So she lost an entire year, which wasn’t terrible, because that’s when she actually got married, and was able to relax for a year before starting medical school. So So you took about a late decision that she was really, really late in her decision. But at the end of the day, look, it worked out and, and she married a guy who also became a doctor, he’s an anesthesiologist, she’s an OB GYN.


Suzanne: Oh, that’s great. Yeah. Okay, so


Ari: let me ask you this, you know, what my listeners would like to know, is what was some of your struggles and or even failures? If if there were some of your bricks that you got hit with when you were starting out your career and throughout your career?


Suzanne: Well, let’s just say this when I started out, and it was not quite 20 years ago, but let’s just use that there was no, not very many women, cardiologists. And today, there are only 13% of cardiologists are women. So I think back then it was like three to 7%. So here, I was in the middle of very male dominated fields. And I promise you on a daily basis, there were bricks, it was not easy. It was definitely not easy. I say also, about my childhood and being raised in this family of doctors, they were all men. And so when people asked me how I dealt with the men, I always say, as a child, I learned how to ignore people really well. And I learned how to ignore the men. And that’s kind of, you know, I just let the bricks fly past me. But there were definitely bricks, cardiology is a pretty competitive fields. And even getting into it and being part of it and really having a voice. And when I started, there was no such thing as women in heart disease. And I was in the emergency one day and a 53 year old woman was wheeled in, she was very uncomfortable, nauseous vomiting, I mean, sweating. And the doctors that I really respected. They were my teachers put her in the corner of the emergency room. And she proceeded to have a heart attack in front of us in the emergency room. And, you know, I talked about this aha moment I had, and I said, My gosh, I’m watching women die of heart disease. And I finally tracked down the Chief of Cardiology, and I said, I am very interested in doing a woman in heart disease fellowship. And he said, There’s no such thing. And I said, I want to do a preventive cardiology fellowship. And he said, Well, there’s no such thing. And so my whisper was, figure this out, make this happen. My brick was that they figured it out. They made it happen. But I had to endure everything, went on around it, and really had a fight for my career, and fight to really say women get heart disease. And when I started that fight was I was relentless, but it was not easy, was not easy.


Ari: Well, so then let me ask you this, if it’s true, and I have no reason to doubt it, that, you know, it’s only 13% of cardiologists are women, what can be done to even that out, you know, to get a higher percentage of women that are kind of ologists I mean, at the end of the day, you know, women are usually more comfortable with a woman doctor, obviously, regardless of what it is, regardless of whether it’s kind of logical or it’s something else. Women are just more comfortable with women in the same way that men are more comfortable with men. So what in your opinion, what do you think can be done in order to, I guess, attract more women into cardiology,


Suzanne: I think the more women that are in a field like your daughter’s in OBGYN, the majority of those doctors are women. And oftentimes, women go into fields where they’re comfortable. The more women we get, the more women that that will come. And it’s really about attracting women in their training and giving them options of understanding that there is a way to balance life. Cardiology could be very challenging in terms of your time and family life, there’s emergencies. But I’ve been very lucky and being able to figure out how to have some balance. But it’s not an easy career. And it’s really about educating, educating the women as they come through training to explain to them really what it could be like, and the options that are out there. But it’s interesting, a study just came out that showed women patients who see women doctors, for cardiology actually have better outcomes. So we really need to get more women doctors in there.


Ari: Oh, absolutely. It’s mind boggling that you know, those are the statistics. But where do you start? Do you start in the colleges? Do you start when they decide that they want to go to med school? Because I think even when people want to go to even when people want to go to med school, I don’t know that they’ve decided what area of medicine they want to practice, some do. But I have a sneaky suspicion that a lot of them don’t know until they go through their rotations and figure out, you know, Hey, I like this, or I like that. I know my daughter had thought long and hard about becoming an ER doctor. But once she went through her rotation, er, she was there’s no shot, I’m doing this. Okay. And she went into she worked, she became an OB, because like I said, originally, she felt like women are more comfortable with women. And she said to me that believe it or not, most obese are actually not women. They’re actually men. That was really Yes. There actually was not I’m sorry. I was not aware of that. I thought it was mostly women. No, it’s It’s mostly men. And that’s one of the reasons why she picked OB because she understood that you know, what women are just not comfortable with with men and there needs to be more women. OBGYN. Certainly, you know, my daughter is an orthodox woman, Jewish Orthodox woman. And as a Jewish Orthodox woman, she understands the special needs that orthodox women have, which most OBGYN just don’t know, they don’t have that information. They just don’t know. So my these people that have come into the hospital when my daughter’s in works in Philly, Einstein in Philly. And whenever she gets an orthodox woman who comes through the rotation in the hospital, you know, because they see, obviously different doctors, when they reach my daughter. It’s always the same. At the end of the exam, she would say, How can I get you as a you know, as my doctor, and she goes, Just tell the nurse when you make your next appointment that you want to see me. And in the first year that she was there, she brought in 25 new patients. Wow. Which was absolutely amazing. It was funny because they had hired another OB who had years of experience. And in that same timeframe, this other woman brought in three. Wow. So something Yeah, it really, really does. So yeah. So let me ask you this. I mean, it must have been a tough road. It really must have been a tough road. But do you ever get to a point like so, so low that you said to yourself, you know what, I quit? I just I can’t do this anymore. I’ve given up my dreams. And you know, I’m done.


Suzanne: Yeah, multiple times.


Ari: Okay, fine. So if that’s the case, then how did you deal with it? And how did you make that comeback? How did you get out of that?


Suzanne: Well, I think it started happening so often that when I would say it, you know, the weather it was in my training, my co fellows would look at me and they’d be like, Okay, tell us when you feel better. They got sick day carrying it. We were on call every fourth night overnight and had to stay the next day and it was just a lot of exhaustion and mental physical. It was intense. And we had people’s lives on the line and you know, then someone would be mean to me. I would be So tired, I’d have tears and you didn’t want anyone to see you cry. So you had to hide in the bathroom or a closet. It was just a lot, lot stuff like that. So there I remember one of the first times it was one of those days and someone got angry at me for like something stupid. I don’t know what it was I showed up three minutes late to something. I mean, I was I felt like I was happy to be standing, walking, let alone I showed up. It was that feeling. And I was just a mess and crying. I mean, for no reason. I was exhausted. And one of the guys I worked with, I said to him, I can’t do this anymore. I hate this. I don’t want to be here. And he looked at me, he goes, Okay, where are you going? Good comeback. Well, that’s an excellent point about that. Wow, that was great. That was my first quitting time. I was pregnant making rounds in the hospital. I remember threatening to quit at that, too. You know, it came in different moments. And, and at the end of the day, I always think back how it started, I always say to myself, no one did this to you. You did this to yourself. No one did this to you. This was your choice, right? And I think for me, knowing that I’m in control of my life, and I’ve made these decisions is more empowering than being the victim of woe is me. I’m quitting. And I always remind myself, I’m here, I’m going to be present every day. Because this is what I did. And I’m good with that.


Ari: Wow. Wow. So if I was gonna ask you this question, and I’m sure I know the answer. I’m pretty sure anyway, who’s the one person that you can point to? That you would say had the most influence in your life? And why?


Suzanne: Well, I would really say my dad,. So I hung out with my father, as I mentioned before, and he was an oncologist. And he’s a special guy. I hope that we all feel that way about our dads. He trained at Sloan Kettering in the beginning of breast cancer, wow, in the beginning of tamoxifen, and he was on that team that discovered and did the research trials on Tamoxifen. And he had his own oncology unit. And on that oncology unit, he had not just the team, but he had a social worker, a nutritionist, a Reiki Master, he had all of these people that addressed the family. He used to have what he’d call misery parties. And it was for the families to come of all the patients that they would celebrate being in the middle of this horrible situation together. And I used to ask him why he did that. And he would always say, to me, cancer is a family disease. And every person is not their disease. They’re a whole person. And we have to remember to always look at the whole person. And, and I was raised in such a way that looked at the bigger picture, not just the small diagnosis or the treatment, or, you know, how many patients do you have to see it was with the acknowledgement that every human being in front of you? Is someone special, and take the time, he really created for me, the kind of human being and the kind of doctor that I wanted to be in my life.


Ari: That’s great. That’s really great. So is there a reason why you didn’t go into oncology? You grew up with your dad, you you were working with him, you went to the hospital with him, right? You were so involved in his field in his practice, and yet you went like oncology? No, I don’t think so.


Suzanne: Because I would cry all the time. And I actually tell him, I picked the opposite. I went into a career of prevention for life and longevity and vitality and, and I really feel like my job as a physician as a cardiologist is to help people become the healthiest and the best they can be. And that’s what I wanted. I would get so wrapped up with his patients at a very young age. Yeah, that I think being in that environment. So Young, I just did not want that for my life.


Ari: Fair enough. Yeah. Now let me just ask you something that pertains to what’s going on in the world today, we hear all kinds of conflicting reports on what to do, how to act mask, no mass vaccine, etc. Just what advice would you give to people during this COVID pandemic? What should they do? How should they act? You know, should they? Should they, you know, yes, a mess, no mask, you know, vaccine, there are anti vaxxers. And, you know, what’s your take on this? We hear from all these all these, you know, specialists, and but, you know, no two people are thinking alike. I mean, that’s what I see.


Suzanne:  I couldn’t have to just say that until you’re on the ground floor, and you’re in a hospital. And you’re really seeing the truth about what’s going on, you can appreciate how bad it is. And that’s all I can say is that people talk a lot. But words in this situation mean nothing. put a mask on, just because because it’s so much worse than you even realize even now, I think that the mask at this point, we’ve all got the message. Listen, I’m in my office, I’ve been seeing patients full time since June, I have not gotten COVID. And that’s because I’m wearing a mask every day. I think the thing about this disease that’s so hard to understand is how unpredictable it is. And you never know how you’re going to respond to it. I am now seeing people with heart complications 646 A year later, from having COVID Having inflammatory disease problems with their heart from COVID. And it’s so unpredictable. That please just wear a mask. That’s my take home.


Ari: Okay. Okay, fair enough. Fair enough. I get it. I get it. I just have to tell you. I just had my second vaccine today. Yeah, yeah, I got the second vaccine today. I had COVID. I had COVID. Early on. I had it a year ago in March. Right, right after my son’s wedding. He got it. All right, which kind of messed up that first week for him. And then I got it. And then but and it’s interesting, because when we got it, we didn’t know what it was like, he never got tested for it. But we know that it was COVID He has the antibodies. I knew I had it because I wasn’t feeling well. And and I was running a fever, whatnot. And I went like, you know what, maybe I should just get tested. I didn’t even tell anybody my family. I was doing it. You know, cuz it was, you know, I think back then it was, it was more of a lot of people looked at it as like a blemish, like, what’s wrong with you? You know, it’s like leprosy, you know? COVID Oh, my God, you did it. Right. And so I didn’t even tell anybody, you know, and I went and I went to God, God tested and you know, I get a call, like two days later. And they said, Yeah, you’ve got COVID You got to quarantine. And I was like, Okay, I told my wife. I got COVID Alright, but I wasn’t telling anybody. I stayed at home. You know, and I wasn’t talking to anybody, wasn’t it? So I didn’t, you know, it was like one of those things that, you know, I don’t want to tell anybody I’ve COVID


You know, a lot of people have COVID Yeah,


yeah. But But again, you know, we were very, very careful, obviously. And what’s amazing is, I mean, you know, i It’s me, my wife and my, my 17 year old. Okay. And neither one of them caught it.

Isn’t that bizarre?

I that’s what I was saying. I also I was thinking, you know, she’s been around that he’s been around whatever. And they just didn’t get and she doesn’t have antibodies.

I find that so odd. And it we I hear it all the time, though. And I don’t think we get the we don’t fully get this.


Suzanne: No, not at all. Not at all. Not at all.

Listen, we’ve all got to move forward. And I think all of us the fact that you got your second vaccine, I think we’re all in this mindset of Oh, my goodness, is this gonna allow us to move forward? The world needs to open up we have to start.


I agree. Yeah, I agree with you. There. Now just to finish off here. Is there anything else that you’d like to share with my audience? Before we go any words of wisdom or I mean, you already gave us your take on COVID? Anything else you want to share?


Suzanne: I do. You know, I think that one of the things that I’ve learned in cardiology and I study and research everything there is to know about prevention and how to stay healthy. And one of the most interesting things that I’ve learned is this concept of living life with passion and with purpose. And the people that live life with purpose actually live longer and healthier lives. And I think the most interesting way to exist on this planet, and to live the healthiest life is to find your purpose, and live with passion. And those are the two best things you can do for your heart.


Ari: Wow. Alright, so I should be in pretty good shape, because I got a lot of passion. You know, and I got a lot of purpose, you know, my purpose is to be out there and to try and help people help them get through whatever it is that they’re going through. Let them know that you know, there is a tomorrow and you know, you’re better than that. Whatever it is, you’re better than that you can beat whatever you’ve got going, you can beat it. You know, they always say God does not give you a challenge that you can’t get through. Just does.


I believe that we learned from every single one of them, right?


Yeah, absolutely. So now if people want to get in touch with you, okay, what would be the best way for them to do that you have a website? Do you have a email or?


Suzanne: I do so you can go to my website, which is Dr. Suzanne


Ari: And that would be what Dr. Seuss spelled out. Or


Suzanne: And I’m on all the social media platforms and Instagram and LinkedIn and Facebook and Matt, Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum. And I’m here in New York and private practice, and I’m doing telemedicine all over the country right now. Really, really fun. Yeah.


Ari: Oh, great. That’s great. No, that’s great. So it’s Dr. Suzanne Yes. All right. That’s great. Suzanne, thanks so much for sharing your story with my audience. Good luck going forward. Good luck with the new project that you’re working on for 2021. You know, wish you all the best. You were listening to whispers and bricks, and I’m your host Gary Sherman. Until next time, listen to the whispers avoid the breaks and never ever give up on your dreams. Bye for now.