Leadership panel at Women’s Vascular Summit.

Linda M. Harris, MD, and Mariel Rivero, MD, are among the participants on a leadership panel during the 2022 Women’s Vascular Summit.

Women’s Vascular Summit Shines Light on Disparities

Published June 7, 2022

story by dirk hoffman

The Women’s Vascular Summit, hosted at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, continues to shine a light on disparities in vascular care between men and women and to promote research and education to initiate change.

“... We have been able to develop a collaborative community that recognizes the importance of these issues and has the resources and expertise to both study them and begin to educate providers in their own home institutions. ”
Clinical Assistant professor of surgery

Originating in 2019, the summit covers an array of topics, including the broad spectrum of vascular disorders including peripheral arterial disease, cerebrovascular disease, aortic aneurysms, aortic dissections, access and venous disease.  

Interactive group discussions allow participants to ask questions and to work together to develop future research projects.

Collaboration in Research and Education

Linda M. Harris MD; Chief, Division of Vascular Surgery, Program Director Vascular Surgery; Department of Surgery; Specialty Surgery; Surgery - Endovascular; Surgery - Vascular; Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo; 2018.

Linda M. Harris, MD

More than 150 vascular physicians and surgeons participated in this year’s summit — with about half attending in person, says co-organizer Linda M. Harris, MD, professor of surgery and program director of the vascular surgery integrated residency and the vascular surgery fellowship.

“The in-person attendees were from all across the country, as well as Canada, Puerto Rico and England,” she says. Other attendees were able to participate through videoconferencing.

Harris notes two new research projects were funded this year and a previous meeting resulted in a research project on pelvic congestion syndrome.

“We still continue to have disparities in care between men and women, but progress is being made with collaboration in research and enhancing knowledge of how women often present with different symptomatology,” says Harris, a vascular physician with Kaleida Health and a surgeon at UBMD Surgery.  

Harris says meeting participants discussed some rare vascular diseases which are frequently more common in women and signs and symptoms to look for, which are often overlooked. 

Urgent Need to Change Providers’ Perceptions

Mariel Rivero MD; Department of Surgery; Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences; University at Buffalo; 2016.

Mariel Rivero, MD

Co-organizer Mariel Rivero, MD, clinical assistant professor of surgery, was one of four course directors for the meeting, overseeing 22 faculty members.

“I think the changes we are seeing are subtle, but real. The issue of vascular disease in women is discussed more often at vascular meetings and forums and more publications are specifically addressing the experiences and outcomes of our female patients,” she says. “However, the medical community as a whole still tends to overlook vascular symptoms and disease processes in women.”

Rivero says one of the female speakers at the meeting shared her own recent experience of presenting to an emergency room for evaluation of chest pain.

Despite having multiple risk factors for cardiovascular disease, she felt that she was "blown off” and had to advocate strongly to have her symptoms taken as seriously as they would have been in a male patient, Rivero says.

“This is upsetting for a variety of reasons, not least of which is the fact that there are already robust public health information campaigns specifically focused on heart disease in women,” she says. “Nevertheless, providers continue to underappreciate the presence of vascular disease in women.”

Progress Achieved, But Much Work Remains

In comparison to heart disease, the impact of most other vascular conditions (peripheral vascular disease, aortic aneurysms, etc.) on women has received much less attention, Rivero notes.

“For example, women experience peripheral vascular disease at least as often as men, but are less likely to undergo revascularization and more likely to present for emergent medical attention of critical limb ischemia,” she says. “Women have also been grossly underrepresented in most vascular studies and trials.”

Harris says it is also important for vascular physicians to understand clinical trial data.

“One of the meeting’s presentations focused on asymptomatic carotid stenosis,” she says. “Multicenter randomized trials suggested worse outcomes for women, yet randomized way fewer participants than single institution studies which demonstrated similar outcomes by sex. The randomized trials were not powered to assess this, yet made conclusions.”

Other topics discussed were workforce issues, harassment in the workplace and how to improve these issues, Harris says.

“We need to continue to educate everyone so that outcomes can improve for vascular care,” she says.

Rivero agrees there is much work to be done, noting that is a primary reason to meet annually to discuss the issues.

“As our meeting has grown we have brought more attention to the issue of vascular health in women,” she says. “But, more importantly, we have been able to develop a collaborative community that recognizes the importance of these issues and has the resources and expertise to both study them and begin to educate providers in their own home institutions.”

“The Women’s Vascular Summit acknowledges the disparities in vascular treatment of women versus men and brings together the greatest minds in the industry to collaborate and initiate change,” says Allison Brashear, MD, MBA, UB’s vice president for health sciences and dean of the Jacobs School.

“Greater awareness of disparities in vascular health is a critical first step to improving outcomes for women. We need to keep pushing the envelope!” she adds. “This conference is a catalyst, helping to make a more diverse and inclusive world in health care for practitioners and patients alike.” 

Diverse Range of Health Centers Represented

Along with Harris and Rivero, other course directors were:

  • Elizabeth Genovese, MD, assistant professor of surgery and director of the limb salvage program at the Medical University of South Carolina
  • Amy Reed, MD, professor of surgery and chief of the Division of Vascular Surgery, at University of Minnesota Medical School

Among the institutions represented at the meeting were:

  • Duke University School of Medicine
  • Harvard Medical School
  • Massachusetts General Hospital
  • Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville, Florida
  • MedStar Health, Washington, D.C.
  • Mount Sinai Medical Center
  • Northwell Health
  • University of North Carolina School of Medicine
  • University of Rochester

The 2022 Women’s Vascular Summit was conducted May 13-14 at the Jacobs School.

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