The Women of CVA – Heart Health Tailored for Women

CVAWomenCardiovascular Associates of the Southeast opened its doors in Birmingham, AL in 1946. The private cardiology group is comprised of over thirty physicians who specialize in an array of diagnosis and treatment options with a balance of nationally recognized experts, as well as recently trained cardiologists, in order to maintain our position at the forefront of cardiovascular care.

CVA is unique because they employ the most female cardiologists in private practice in the metro Birmingham area. These women are dynamic and each as passionate as the next about providing their communities with comprehensive women’s cardiology services.

One of the longest standing partners at CVA is Elizabeth Branscomb, MD, FACC. “I came here in the 80’s because the best people in my medical class were here,” says Branscomb. “At that point, CVA had been around for 60 years and Echocardiography was in its infancy. It was an opportunity for me to join a great team to develop new noninvasive procedures.”

Branscomb, the female cardiology trailblazer, helped develop nuclear cardiology and Positron Emission Tomography (PET) stress testing, a noninvasive form of testing. “We were one of the first places in the world to do high volume PET stress testing which can be better for women as they are less likely to have false positives,” says Branscomb. Coupling that with a high volume availability of stress echo which has no radiation, the cardiologists are able to either completely avoid radiation exposure or greatly minimize it in female patients under fifty or of childbearing age in whom ionizing radiation is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. “Women often get unnecessary testing and procedures,” says Dr. Anuradha Rao. “We offer a thoughtful approach to women’s cardiac care.”

Anuradha Rao, MD, FACC, heads up the CVA Women’s Cardiology. “We are unique in our community because we have a dedicated focus on women’s cardiac issues,” says Rao. Before joining CVA, Rao developed and ran the Women’s Cardiology Program at Tulane. “When I interviewed with my future CVA partners and I met with the women’s specialty groups at Brookwood Baptist Medical Center, there was an overall sense of support,” she says. “A lot of hospitals claim to be women’s hospitals, but Brookwood offers services that go beyond reproductive health from bone health, to cardiac, to mental health services. It’s truly a comprehensive women’s hospital that offers holistic health for women.”

Rao was able to bring her expertise for pregnant women with cardiac issues. “Traditionally, there is no formal training for physicians treating pregnant women with heart problems,” says Branscomb. “Those patients need someone who has experience treating pregnant women and can identify the slight differences in their care.” Rao worked alongside high risk obstetricians while at Tulane to develop that expertise.

Community outreach is important to the practice because often women don’t recognize heart disease and don’t seek proper care. Saema Mirza, MD, FACC, works with the CVA outreach program. “Normally, patients don’t have access to female cardiologists in outreach programs,” says Mirza. “We are able to give them the choice to have a woman and our patient’s gain access to the world class expertise of the CVA group”

Joyce R. Koppang, MD, FACC, has been with CVA for twelve years and also works with some of the group’s outreach communities. “Some of our patients are in areas where they can’t get into town for the care they need,” says Koppang. “We have so many locations for convenience of expertise and we have plenty of options to help provide services that would be totally unavailable to them. We maintain our patients because they have so many places to go.”

The women of CVA don’t feel the need to compete; they work together as a team. “Cardiology has gotten so subspecialized. We don’t hesitate to tap our colleagues for their expertise because as a collective group we have greater knowledge to provide the highest quality of care to our community,” says Rao. “It’s a pleasure being here and on any given day because we have such positive comradery.”

“We are on the forefront of women’s health,” says Branscomb. “Not only do our partners at CVA care about women, they are open to women’s health and would not feel complete without a women’s cardiology program.”

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