"It's just so profound to think how us coming to work and doing our jobs has the ability and the reach to inspire so many people," said Dr. Fiedler.
Sometimes, history is made in one day. An all-women team has done just this at a California hospital after performing a heart transplant on a woman patient in early December 2022, reported Good Morning America. The team, led by Dr. Amy Fiedler, an attending cardiac surgeon and assistant professor at the University of California, San Francisco consisted of six other healthcare professionals.
"For all of us to come together, we made history but we make history by living our best lives every single day. It's incredible." https://t.co/4llwtQcXJL— Good Morning America (@GMA) February 21, 2023
The team included Dr. Laura Scrimgeour, a cardiothoracic surgery fellow; Dr. Charlene Blake, an attending cardiothoracic anesthesiologist, and associate professor; Dr. Jacqueline Measer, an anesthesia resident; Ashley Risso, a perfusionist; Ruiza Coronel, a registered nurse; and another traveling nurse, who is currently not working with UCSF.
Showing up to work got us on the @TODAYshow 🫀❤️. Love working with exceptional individuals (not just women!) @UCSFHospitals— Amy Fiedler, MD (@FiedlerAmy) February 16, 2023
Meet the all-women team that is likely the first to perform a heart transplant https://t.co/pVXuDMiOiZ via @TODAYshow
The five-hour procedure is notable because, at UCSF, Fiedler told GMA, they only performed about 50 heart transplants last year, and overall, men make up the majority of adult cardiac surgeons in the country. A 2019 STS Thoracic Surgery Practice and Access Task Force Workforce Report showed that, nationwide, women comprise 6.2% of adult cardiac surgeons.
Fiedler further stated that it wasn't until the end of the operation that she realized how unusual it was. "We did the surgery, just the same as we always do, and as we were finishing up, closing the final layers of the incision, I looked up because that's the time when we're all chatting and listening to music and decompressing after the case goes well, and I said to Dr. Blake, 'Wow, we're all women here'," Fiedler recalled.
Blake, who has been at UCSF for nearly eight years and also has her doctorate in genetics and genomics, said she was "quite surprised" by this fact too. "I've only seen one other heart surgeon in all my years of training and in being an attending and so, this coming together with [Fiedler] and with [Scrimgeour] and with everyone here, it was remarkable," Blake said. "Dr. Fiedler is making history by being the first female cardiac surgeon at UCSF. I'm making history by being the first Black cardiac anesthesiologist at UCSF. And so for all of us to come together, we made history but we make history by living our best lives every single day. It's incredible," the anesthesiologist added.
A surgery at a California hospital seemed like any other until the end, when one of the doctors involved realized the team was made up of all women. https://t.co/UoTPC2YUW8— 97.1 WASH-FM (@washfm) February 21, 2023
Blake ended up capturing a few glimpses of the historical moment in a quick selfie with the team gathered around their patient, Fatou Gaye. Fiedler said she hopes their story will encourage more women to realize their hopes and ambitions. "It is just so profound to think how us coming to work and doing our jobs has the ability and the reach to inspire so many people across the country, in the world, to live what they want to do, live out their dreams and recognize that anything is possible," Fiedler said.
We are so proud of amazing @FiedlerAmy and all-women heart transplant team driving forward towards gender equity in CT surgery.@FiedlerAmy is a WTS member and true leader! #ILookLikeASurgeon #WTS #womeninsurgery #CTsurgery pic.twitter.com/qRJVsynrYD— WomenInThoracicSurg (@WomenInThoracic) February 23, 2023
Scrimgeour, who is in the second year of her three-year cardiothoracic fellowship, said she hopes more women will enter the field of medicine. "Anyone can do this and it's becoming more and more possible," she said. "Everyone can come to do this job and I think that's really fun. So I hope that's the message that everyone gets, is everyone's welcome here, everyone should do this because it's a really fantastic job."
"It's kind of like, 'Yeah, this is our time,' and we can blaze trails so that the next generation can come in and it won't be as tough for them as it was for us," Blake added. "Glass ceilings better watch out."
Representative Cover Image Source: Getty Images | SDI Productions