The world’s premiere interventional cardiology meeting now features cardiologists wearing boxing shorts and gloves. The Transcatheter Cardiovascular Therapeutics (TCT) meeting in Washington, DC kicked off with a “Saturday Night Fights” theme for its debate session, and the participants– nearly all greying, eminent male interventional cardiologists– adopted the theme whole-heartedly.
— Shelley Wood (@ShelleyWood2) October 29, 2016
Unlike the movie, the first rule of TCT’s fight club was to tweet about fight club. As the event began the #TCT2016 hashtag filled up with images and comments about the event. According to Twitter, the audience was enthusiastic and enjoyed the debates, some of which were delivered in rhyming couplets reminiscent of Muhammad Ali.
But not everyone was happy. One female cardiologist quietly expressed her feeling that the event was “tacky.”
Another female cardiologist, Catherine Otto (University of Washington), the editor-in-chief of Heart, said “personally, I would have refused to participate in this type of event.” Otto also expressed larger doubts about the event.”Perhaps we can think of ‘less macho’ ways to present debates.” She acknowledged that the format “does get people’s attention” but that it is important to be aware of the “fine line between ‘tacky’ and ‘fun’ — all while being sensitive to gender, race/ethnicity, etc.”
Sat. Night fights at TCT 2016 with Teirstein in the ring. pic.twitter.com/t9KWcCopMq
— CM Otto (@ottoecho) October 29, 2016
Otto did choose to participate in a gladiator-themed debate a few months ago at the ESC. There was no dressing up at the ESC debates, though the audience was asked to vote with a Thumbs Up for their winner at the end. In her ESC debate Otto took lighthearted issue with the the gladiator theme. Near the end she showed a slide stating that “we do not need a gladiator guy with a shield and sword (Russell Crowe morphing into an interventional cardiologist).” In its place, she proposed, “we need a women with a magic wand (Hermione from Harry Potter).”
Interventional cardiologists have long been called “cowboys” and cardiology in general has been less successful than many fields in attracting women. I asked Bob Harrington (Stanford University), a new member of the ACC’s Women in Cardiology leadership group, about the Saturday Night Fights event. He wasn’t at the event and said he was uncomfortable commenting on an event that he didn’t attend. But, he added:
In general (and not directly related to the TCT event), we need to do a much better job attracting/recruiting women into cardiology. It is too male dominated. Medical students and internal medicine residents are roughly 50/50, men and women. But, only 15-20% of cardiology fellows are women. Therefore, we can’t be getting the best talent into the field as the upstream pipeline suggests that we should have closer to 50% women as cardiology fellows. The reasons are many. It would be worth you interviewing a group of WIC leaders. One of the reasons that I joined the WIC group is that this is not a women’s issue, it’s a quality of the specialty issue. All of us, and maybe most particularly men leaders in cardiology, need to get involved in solving the problem.
— Yael L. Maxwell (@TCTMD_Yael) October 29, 2016
I have requested a comment from TCT leaders, including Martin Leon, Gregg Stone, and Ajay Kirtane, all of whom were debate participants.