It's not every day you meet a female heart failure & transplant doctor as epic as Dr. Jasjit Bhinder. So we felt it was important to interview her!
DIEM: Tell us a little about yourself!
JB: I am from upstate New York. I went to college at Princeton University for my undergraduate degree and I majored in molecular biology. From there I went to St. George’s Medical School which is based in Grenada. However the first year I did a global scholar program and I did my first year in Newcastle, England which was amazing because I traveled a lot! Afterward, I spent a year in Grenada and did my clinical rotations in Brooklyn. I did 4 years of residency and chief residency in St. Luke's/Roosevelt in Manhattan. I completed my 3 years of cardiology fellowship training at Westchester Medical Center. Currently, I am finally doing my last and final year at Yale New Haven Medical Center - I am an Advanced Heart Failure and Transplant Cardiology Fellow!
How are you able to integrate your passions with your work today?
JB: It may be cliché but my passion is my job. I love cardiology, specifically heart failure. I feel fortunate to have gotten to this point in my career. People say they get the Sunday scaries, but I truly do not feel that. I love patient care. I see very sick people in the ICU and being able to take care of them and create and individualized plan and see them through to the end of the plan is remarkable.
Depression & stress can impact women’s heart health more than men. Would methods/ways of managing stress would you recommend to ensure that this does not happen?
JB: Patients with depression are at increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease, they respond poorly to treatment and they have worse outcomes. It is also known women suffer more depression after heart attacks.
It is important to see your primary care doctor yearly because they implement mental health screenings in a visit. It is also important to empower yourself and have family members recognize the signs and symptoms of depression. After a cardiac event if a person has depression it is important to have a multidisciplinary approach with mental health providers, cardiologist, patient and family in treatment
DIEM: Woah, you’re insanely busy! Pre-Covid, how did you balance it all?
JB: Prior to Covid, my time was spent two-fold. I have a son and husband and we used to love going over to our family's house and spending time with them. We also loved to travel. My son is only 4 years old and has been to Morocco, multiple Caribbean islands and a handful of European countries! I also have a good group of girlfriends who I would often go have dinners with on my free weekends. Post-covid we are trying to find our new normal doing a lot more outdoor activities like walking, hiking and more recently we have been visiting our immediate family again!
DIEM: What are you doing to remain calm during this time? How are you taking time for yourself?
JB: Exercise and meditation! There was not a lot to do during the pandemic and I found that my previous irregular routine became a little more regular which was great and it gave me some time to clear my head. I also started using Headspace to do meditation sessions. These were wonderful because I am so busy with work and sometimes the gravity of what was happening in the ICUs during the pandemic didn’t hit me until later on. The meditation sessions though helped immensely and I still continue it to this day.
DIEM: Heart attacks are the leading cause of death in women today. How do we make sure we remain informed of the differences between men and women?
JB: Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in women and annually more women die from heart disease than men. There are certain factors as to why women are typically more affected than men. While women do most commonly feel the typical symptoms such as crushing chest pain during a heart attack, they can also present with atypical symptoms such as indigestion, fatigue and nausea. This leads to a delay in diagnosis because it can lead to women not coming to the hospital because they dismiss these types of symptoms and on the provider side they might start working up other conditions. Even after a heart attack women have higher mortality than men and are more likely to develop downstream side effects of heart attacks like heart failure.
DIEM: How can we as women try to shift this paradigm?
JB: First thing is prevention. Keep your heart healthy with a good diet and exercise. If you have medical conditions that can contribute to heart disease such as diabetes and hypertension, please seek appropriate medical care to address these issues. And always trust your instincts, you know your body the best and if you think there is something wrong there most likely is something wrong.
DIEM: How do you tackle the societal standards/pressures of women in the healthcare industry today?
JB: I am often mistaken for a nurse, tech or respiratory therapist when it is usually clearly written on my badge that I am a physician. I am not offended ever to be mistaken for a nurse because I view every person apart of the patient’s care team to be integral. What I am disappointed in is that even in 2020 the assumption is that I am not a doctor. Aside from the patients I have had my fair share of comments from other cardiologists referring to me getting pregnant and about what my husband thinks of my career but I don’t think my male colleagues ever got those same questions. I will admit juggling an active career and family life is hard. This is not unique to women only but we get the brunt of the questions. I previously have given retorts back like “oh would you ask a male this question” but I often find it makes the conversation turn tense.
DIEM: How has your community of women helped you navigate your health/journey?
JB: In a male-dominated field it is so important to find a tribe. I have a group of female cardiologist friends who I am very close to. It is so important to have women who understand the pressures and challenges you face. I also follow female doctors on Instagram and Twitter, and although I may not know them personally hearing their stories or work/life balance, navigating job interviews, doing research really gives me inspiration on a daily basis.
DM take - Community is so important for us! That’s exactly why we started Diem. Finding a group of womxn who are like-minded and motivated can make the hard times pass much quicker. Make sure that you have someone to lean on when times get crazy.
DIEM: What’s one valuable piece of advice that you can give to the women reading this?
JB: Don’t be afraid to speak up and be heard. I fell into a pattern in the beginning of my training for whatever reason that I only answered questions that I 100% knew the answer to or put out my thoughts that were totally formed. I was afraid to be wrong or that people might think what I thought was silly. It got to a point that sometimes I didn’t answer or speak up even when I knew the answer or topic well. Meanwhile, I noticed my male colleagues would just literally blurt out whatever was on their minds and move on. I realized that my anxiety of being right all the time was hindering me. I slowly had to retrain myself and I finally started finding my voice. I had to be ok with being wrong sometimes. However, I found that I was engaged with conversations and even though my opinions may differ it often sparked further conversations and people were interested.