Dr. Tara Sedlak, cardiologist, medical director and trailblazer. (photo courtesy VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation)

Dr. Sedlak nominated a woman of distinction

What if something were killing women six times faster than breast cancer and women – and even some medical professionals – weren’t aware how serious the danger truly is?

That’s the situation Dr. Tara Sedlak, cardiologist, faces on a daily basis. As medical director of the Leslie Diamond Women’s Heart Health Clinic at VGH, she and the clinic team fight against heart disease that’s killing women faster than any type of cancer or other condition.

And it’s this ongoing battle against heart disease and society’s lack of awareness that has earned Dr. Sedlak a nomination for a 2018 YWCA Metro Vancouver Women of Distinction Award in the category of Health & Wellness.

How excited was she to hear the news she’d been nominated?

“Really excited,” she says. “But it’s certainly not just about me,” she adds. “The work we do as a team – from our dietitians and exercise physiologists to everyone else who is part of our efforts – is what stands to benefit from this nomination.”

Watching and learning led to a different approach

Years ago, early on in her fellowship, the Kelowna-born cardiologist began recognizing the vast differences in approach that the medical system took when dealing with women suffering from chest pains and other classic symptoms of heart disease.

Dr. Sedlak saw first-hand as women in a variety of Emergency Departments were treated as if they weren’t suffering from heart disease, instead often having their chest pain and other symptoms dismissed as stress-related or muscular in nature. In fact, women suffering from heart conditions such as microvascular disease or spasms of the artery, were being severely underdiagnosed and under-recognized in Canada, as well as all over the world.

Research into innovative techniques recognized

Fast-forward a few years and not only are Dr. Sedlak and her team changing attitudes towards women and heart health, they’re also changing how heart disease is treated.

The team has pioneered the innovative use of MRIs to diagnose a variety of heart-related consequences and conditions like tissue scarring, heart enlargement, etc. They’re also using angiograms to test small arteries of the heart and have done outreach for women on the Downtown Eastside, providing free check-ups to alert them to potential precursors to heart disease such as high blood pressure and diabetes.

This innovative work, and Dr. Sedlak’s years of advocating for awareness and treatment of women’s heart disease, is what the YWCA judges will consider when they choose this year’s Women of Distinction Award winners in Vancouver on June 7, 2018.

We wish Dr. Sedlak the best of luck!

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