Established in 2010, the Electrophysiologist International Community (EPIC) Alliance is a global network for women working or wanting to work in electrophysiology. The network, comprised of over 100 members, enables female leadership and career development through mentorship and works towards strengthening the visibility of women in this specialty. Cardiac Rhythm News spoke to Jeanne Poole (professor of Medicine and director, Arrhythmia Service and Electrophysiology Laboratory, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, USA), one of the founding members of the steering committee of the EPIC Alliance.
What was the main motivation behind the creation of EPIC Alliance?
The motivation was the observation that many obstacles exist for training and promotion for women in electrophysiology quite different from male colleagues and we wanted to provide an organisation facilitating mentorship for women for these purposes. We also felt that there was a need to find out who and where the female electrophysiologists around the world are.
We wanted to find different ways of helping women to get involved in research opportunities, and to be speakers or chairpersons at international scientific sessions in the field. Becoming a member of our network offers a clear opportunity to strengthen the visibility of women in this field.
In addition, we wanted to understand better how to promote our specialty to women early in their medical training path, at a time when they could have the exposure to a career we believe is as well suited for young women as it is for young men. Currently, only seven to 10% of all electrophysiologists in Europe and the USA are women.
Can you think of possible reasons why there is such a small percentage of women in electrophysiology?
There are many reasons; one of those is personal choice. For example, how many years do you want for training? We have to take into consideration the realities of life. It is still true that around the world women are the individuals that carry the burden of the domestics of working at home and if they choose to have children they will carry that responsibility in a greater scale than men.
What we have also found is that women have not understood that this field enables them to balance their work life with their personal life. Electrophysiology is very nicely formed for people that have very sharp minds in mathematics and science and enjoy problem solving. In electrophysiology, women may have more defined working hours than physicians who work in interventional cardiology specialties in which you are more likely to be called in the middle of the night.
What activities has the EPIC Alliance promoted to encourage more women into electrophysiology?
The more visible we become, the more likely women are to choose this field. EPIC Alliance aims to promote women into positions of leadership, gives them the opportunity to present and chair in international scientific sessions and gives them roles in committees in international organisations. All of that translates into not only educating physicians but also encouraging women to choose electrophysiology and stay in the field.
What are the key benefits of becoming a member of EPIC Alliance?
An essential benefit is the opportunity to network with female colleagues from different parts of the world. This is very important for us because we represent such a small percentage and we are spread out across the nations. Having a single point where women can come together first online joining this Alliance and then meeting in person, where we conduct our meetings at different international scientific sessions is a very powerful experience for women. It brings them a space to share their personal life stories and, more importantly, the opportunity to develop mentors, which is a crucial aspect to anybody’s training. For instance, these meetings are a venue to consider research opportunities or to advise a younger physician on how to put together a good presentation for a talk.
On a personal level, could you tell us what is the best reward of being part of EPIC Alliance?
One of the big rewards that I have had is the opportunity to meet other incredible women around the globe working in electrophysiology. Now I have new friends that possibly I would have never had if I were not part of EPIC Alliance. It also brings great satisfaction to know that what we set out to do back in 2010 is showing results. It is very satisfying to watch these young women who are still on training or recently out of training having the opportunity to speak in a scientific programme and to become more visible.
What other activities does EPIC Alliance organise to fulfil its objectives?
We try to take advantage of every scientific meeting we attend (ie. Heart Rhythm Society and EHRA Europace scientific sessions). We normally have a networking meeting at these congresses, which is usually an evening dinner inviting all women attending the specific conference. We hope to meet new members and explore future goals of EPIC Alliance. We generally have several talks, for example, on the importance of mentoring, and how we can encourage women to choose electrophysiology.
Have you seen changes in the percentage of women that are currently opting for electrophysiology as a career path?
It will take a long time to increase the number of women choosing electrophysiology. However, I could say that there is without question more women in leadership roles in electrophysiology. Of course we would like to see more women coming into our field. For instance, Ellen Hoffman, one of our steering committee members from Germany, who has quite a prominent position in the field in her country and who is past president of the German Cardiology Society, has made a national quest to find ways to bring more women first into cardiology and then into electrophysiology in Germany. This is an example of how EPIC Alliance has translated into real hard outcomes.
Could you please summarise the key achievements of EPIC Alliance so far?
Identification of women in electrophysiology throughout the world clearly results in promoting electrophysiology as a specialty for young women. EPIC Alliance has also increased the visibility of women in electrophysiology and at the scientific congresses.
To find out more or become a member click here.
The EPIC Alliance is sponsored by Biotronik.