Leslie Ann Webb, MD
According to a 2008 report published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, the number of women in cardiology had almost doubled in the past 10 years. At first blush, that reads like good news. The report went further, however, to state that more than two-thirds of female cardiologists continue to report discrimination, mostly on the basis of gender or parenting responsibilities.
Dr. Leslie Webb, a board-certified interventional cardiologist with Cardiovascular Specialists in Newport News, speaks candidly about both statistics. “Traditionally, cardiology has been a very male-dominated field,” she says, adding that “only about 8 percent of cardiologists are women, and even fewer are interventional cardiologists.”
Because of that, “it’s had its challenges,” Dr. Webb acknowledges, but notes that her generation has it much easier than the generation of her female mentors – women like internationally known Dr. Cindy Grines, with whom she trained at William Beaumont Hospital in Michigan. She recalls one of her male mentors saying that women have no place in the cardiology lab because they wouldn’t fully devote their lives to cardiology, because they’d be too busy worrying about everything else, like kids and families. “Luckily there were enough good people along the way, men and women, who were encouraging and good mentors –especially Dr. Robert Safian at Beaumont, who was my greatest supporter as a cardiologist and a working mom,” she remembers. “I didn’t let myself get discouraged, even as I was being judged just because of my gender.”
Resistance to her gender may have been a challenge, but hardly an insurmountable one. After receiving a bachelor’s of science degree from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, and her medical degree from Bowman Gray School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, the self-described “science nerd” completed her medical residency at the University of Virginia Hospital in Charlottesville, where she also completed a fellowship in cardiology.She went on to complete an interventional cardiology fellowship from William Beaumont. She is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine, the American Board of Cardiology and the American Board of Cardiology, Interventional Cardiology. She is a Fellow of the American College of Cardiology.
Dr. Webb joined the staff of Cardiovascular Associates in August of 2012, and she’s based at Bon Secours Mary Immaculate Hospital in Newport News. Her patients come from the lower and middle peninsula, as well as from Suffolk and Smithfield.
She calls interventional cardiologists “the plumbers of cardiology, because we deal with the coronary arteries and blockages of the arteries when they get to be significant enough to cause ischemia.”
Having lost her first husband to heart disease four years ago, she was faced with – and met with trademark resolve – the challenge of practicing interventional cardiology as the single mother of two very young children. Today, the kids are 9 and 7, and she’s a newlywed; her new husband is an echocardiographer at Sentara Norfolk General. The 9-year old, her son, “may well be a scientist,” she says. Her daughter she calls “my flower child. She’d have been perfectly at home in the sixties!”
There’s another statistic from the 2008 Journal of the American College of Cardiology report that resonates with Dr. Webb: “The good news is that . . . both men and women cardiologists are hugely satisfied with their job-over 90 percent love what they do,” the report reads. She agrees: “Cardiology has given me the opportunity to combine my interest in science, anatomy and physiology, with working with people and taking care of them.”