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How to succeed as an academic cardiologist: a conversation for the aspiring cardiology trainee
  1. Catherine M Otto
  1. Correspondence to Professor Catherine M Otto, Division of Cardiology, University of Washington, Seattle WA 98195, USA; cmotto{at}, cmotto{at}

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Many students and trainees aspire to a career in academic cardiology but are uncertain how to achieve that goal. However, as any leader in cardiology will tell you, the keys to a successful academic career are simple: focus and expertise with alignment of your clinical, educational and research interests.

Align your interests

The specialty of cardiology encompasses a wide range of diseases and an ever-increasing number of technologically advanced diagnostic and therapeutic procedures. Thus, most academic cardiologists combine research with clinical care and teaching, in varying proportions. The first step towards a successful academic career is to align your clinical care responsibilities and associated educational efforts to match your research interests. Alignment of interests leads to research questions stimulated by clinical observations.1 Conversely, your patients will benefit from your in-depth knowledge of their cardiac condition. In addition, integration of research and clinical insights in your teaching will add value for students and trainees and ensure that you are up-to-date on all aspects of your area of expertise. As your career progresses, links between your three ‘pillars’ of clinical, teaching and research will buttress and support each other. Failure to align your interests might still allow many small accomplishments, but limit your ability to make a more lasting positive impact (figure 1).

Figure 1

Alignment of research, teaching and clinical interests. When all three are aligned (left), each informs and supports the others, allowing high levels of achievement in a focused area of expertise. When research, teaching and clinical interest are not aligned (right), small accomplishments in each are still possible but …

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  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.