Matters of the Heart: Janet Wei, MD
Feb 11, 2020 Carrie St. Michel
As we approach Valentine’s day, we asked Smidt Heart Institute experts to weigh in on the biggest cardiology game-changers to date, as well as the next cardiology breakthroughs. And because nonexperts tend to associate the heart with this anatomically inaccurate emoji and all things pitter-patter—they told us their favorite love stories as well.
When Janet Wei, MD, was a resident at Cedars-Sinai, she took care of a woman with chronic angina that other doctors had concluded was in the patient's imagination. After conducting coronary reactivity testing, Wei told her she had coronary microvascular dysfunction, which occurs when tiny arteries embedded in the heart become dysfunctional and is more common in women. "The woman burst into tears," Wei recalls. "She was so relieved that her pain was caused by a real disease." Wei has since developed expertise in women's heart disease, with a particular focus on female risk factors and prevention. Wei is also a member of the expert team for the Smidt Heart Institute's Cardio-Oncology Program and works with the maternal fetal medicine team to care for pregnant women with heart disease.
Wei points to studies showing that men are often brought to the cath lab for emergency treatment of acute heart attacks much quicker than women are, and that women have higher heart attack morality rates. "We've conducted research showing that if the same protocol is followed for men and women, these gender differences disappear," she says.
"The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released a report naming cardiovascular disease as the leading cause of death among pregnant and postpartum women. We've recognized we need to improve the recognition, diagnosis and ultimately the prevention of cardiovascular disease outcomes in pregnancy," Wei says.
Favorite love story
Jane Austen's novel Pride and Prejudice warms Wei's heart "because it's not a traditional love story. Both Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet have a lot of shortcomings, and their journey to build a relationship results in each becoming a better person." Wei sees that as a tribute to the power of love at its best.