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Women as One winners changing the future of ACHD care

In December 2020, Drs. Renée Bullock-Palmer and Katia Bravo Jaimes were introduced after winning the Women As One Mentor-Match Escalator Award. The 12-month award program provides funding to cross-institutional pairings to put towards a defined project completed within the award year. Upon their pairing, Drs. Bullock-Palmer and Bravo Jaimes immediately connected across multiple facets, both being international medical graduates, minorities, and mothers. However, it was their shared passion for improving care within adult congenital heart disease (ACHD) that drove their partnership to success.

The pair identified that vital workforce capacity is being lost within the specialty, so they decided to address problems in the training pipeline. Many fellowship programs don’t include an ACHD rotation, so they combined their funding from Women As One to create a sponsorship program. This would enable fellows without access to ACHD rotations to embark on related training at high-volume centers across the United States. To ensure the scholarships were as impactful as possible, they collaborated with Dr. Jonathan Windram from Heart University and Dr. Seiji Ito from Children’s National, resulting in the scholarship program being linked to ACHD learning modules at Heart University. During the programs’ two years, six physicians were selected and placed at three partner institutions: the University of California Los Angeles, Mayo Clinic, and Boston Children’s Hospital.

Not only did Drs. Bullock-Palmer and Bravo Jaimes create the sponsorship program for fellows, they are also working to address awareness of ACHD training opportunities earlier in the trainee pipeline. In early 2023, the pair took part in a webinar with the National Med-Peds Residents’ Association to try and raise awareness of ACHD as a career path for residents. They are also working to see if other incentives can attract trainees to help make it a more enticing prospect to pursue.

The Women As One funding got us to address the lack of exposure in ACHD across fellowship programs. We’re working on increasing exposure and then learning from the incoming pipeline about factors that can incentivize them to consider ACHD as a career.

Dr. Renée Bullock Palmer

Why ACHD?

Despite having had very different starts in their medical careers, Drs. Bullock-Palmer and Bravo Jaimes both experienced the challenges brought about by a lack of physicians specializing in ACHD care. For Dr. Bullock-Palmer, during her primary work in imaging, she saw a large patient population with congenital heart disease without access to care. For Dr. Bravo Jaimes, during her training fellowship in the United States, she saw stark differences between the congenital heart disease (CHD) care available in the US and her home country of Peru, which sparked a fire in her to make a difference for all CHD patients.

We need more people in ACHD. We really need to engage the next generation and that is the mission that is very specific and keeps us up at night. We have patients that suffer from the lack of care, and we are motivated to continue working in this field.

Dr. Katia Bravo Jaimes

Other works

It’s not just ACHD care where Drs Bullock-Palmer and Bravo Jaimes are making a difference. Both are actively involved in American Heart Association (AHA) initiatives supporting women in cardiology, including participating in webinars on motherhood, bullying, and harassment. They have also published two research papers (1, 2) together and hope to work with other institutions to research racial disparities in transcatheter coarctation repair across the United States.

Dr. Bravo Jaimes has also used her experience as a mentee to mentor others. The San Fernando Scientific Society, composed of medical students at Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos School of Medicine, her alma mater, asked her to become their mentor, helping them publish two papers. She then partnered with the Peruvian American Medical Society to launch a national program for mentorship in medicine. This multi-specialty program of 26 pairings is supporting more Peruvian physicians and medical students to achieve their potential while working toward publishing their shared projects.

Like other prior Escalator Award Mentor-Match winners, Dr. Bullock-Palmer and Dr. Bravo Jaimes have extended their mentoring relationship well beyond the one-year program. Women As One hopes to continue to match successful mentorship pairs and share the stories of their work 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. Renee Bullock-Palmer is the Director of Non-Invasive Cardiac Imaging and of the Women’s Heart Center at Deborah Heart and Lung Center in Browns Mills, New Jersey. Dr. Katia Bravo-Jaimes is an ACHD cardiologist at Mayo Clinic, Florida.

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 www.womenasone.org/escalator-awards.