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The power of self-investment

Drs. Alessia Gimelli and Suvasini Lakshmanan are two passionate physicians working in cardiac imaging. In 2021, they each applied for the Women As One Escalator Awards and were matched together in a mentorship pairing. Having both been involved in mentorship relationships before, they applied knowing the many potential benefits the program could provide.

Dr. Lakshmanan was keen to learn from a woman mentor about balancing personal and professional life within a field low in women physicians. She also knew that a mentor from a different country could help her gain a global perspective on cardiac imaging.

Having already been a mentor, Dr. Gimelli knew how it could help her career: increasing her knowledge and skills; boosting her confidence; building her network, and growing her leadership skills. Notably, gaining adaptability, a skill also applied to patient care, was another important benefit. The opportunity to build something new as a team through the award grant, $25,000 for mentors and $10,000 for mentees, was also an exciting prospect.

Getting started

As they embarked on planning their project, Dr. Gimelli asked Dr. Lakshmanan a simple question: What are your dreams?

I was scared to share my dream because I thought it was not possible. But I had two specific dreams of completing additional training, strengthening my research portfolio and skills acquisition, particularly in CV imaging and clinical trials.

Dr. Lakshmanan

Being encouraged to share her dreams with her mentor gave Dr. Lakshmanan renewed confidence, and they began conceptualizing a project to create cardiovascular imaging education for women fellows in training. While this is still a long-term goal for the pair, the feedback they received during their first check-in call with the Escalator Award review committee caused them to shift focus.

They said the investment is for our development and that it will have a ripple effect on how we serve our patients. Alessia’s the most generous and selfless mentor; she said, “My award is your award, we’re doing this as a team”. She already believed in me.

Dr. Lakshmanan

The power of a global network

As their goal shifted to invest in Dr. Lakshmanan’s leadership potential, they set their sights on the two training programs she’d been dreaming of. Dr. Gimelli reached out to her network within the EACVI, and with their support, Dr. Lakshmanan was granted a place for research and imaging training and mentorship in one of the premier institutions at the University of Edinburgh. She is particularly appreciative of the global network of mentorship and colleagues that will pave the way for continued growth and success as a physician-scientist.

Drs. Gimelli and Lakshmanan also gained residual benefits from participating in the wider Escalator Awards network. During the quarterly Escalator Award winner check-in calls, they met Dr. Irina Mbanze, a 2022 Mentee Award winner from Mozambique. Through conversation, the mentees became passionate about the staunch inequality of access to care across geographic regions. They wrote a call to action to create equitable access to imaging resources in underserved areas. In Dr. Gimelli’s role as Editor-in-Chief of the European Heart Journal – Imaging Methods and Practice, she supported the mentees through the publication process.

Suvasini and Irina are the best examples of how we can help young women promote themselves and be of help to colleagues and patients. I’m sure that this journal will be one of the best platforms for sharing their Escalator Awards journey where they can be a great example for others.

Dr. Gimelli

Where are they now?

Thanks to the support of the Escalator Awards, Dr. Lakshmanan has been able to pursue some of the best clinical trials training in the world. She is enjoying completing her additional training in CV imaging and research while completing her final year of cardiology fellowship at University of Iowa.

At the end, she will be my mentor because I need to learn a lot from her, so then I will be the mentee.

Dr. Gimelli

For both Drs. Gimelli and Lakshmanan, being part of the Escalator Awards has significantly impacted their careers. From feeling professionally validated and recognized in how they can benefit younger physicians to personal growth in confidence and self-belief.

It’s truly transformed how I view myself. It’s an empowering experience apart from the skills and the investment that you’ve made. I feel like I’m investable. My vision is investable.

Dr. Lakshmanan

This story of self-investment is one that all physicians can learn from. By believing in yourself and with support from incredible mentors and sponsors, women can reach great heights.

Women As One hopes to continue to match successful mentorship pairs and share their stories to inspire increasing global collaborations among women. More information about the 2024 Escalator Awards will be available later this year. Women physicians – join the Talent Directory so you can hear about next year’s opportunities as soon as they’re announced.

Dr. Alessia Gimelli is the Head of Nuclear Cardiology Unit at Fondazione CNR/ Regione Toscana Gabriele Monasterio in Pisa, Italy. Dr. Suvasini Lakshmanan is a Cardiology Fellow at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Iowa, USA.

The Women As One Escalator Awards are an annual recognition of highly qualified women physicians taking action to improve patient care in their specialty. The Escalator Awards aim to fortify the pipeline of women leaders in medicine through targeted funding, mentorship, and networking opportunities. By providing support and visibility to talented women physicians, we hope to develop a more equitable healthcare workforce. To learn more, visit