Dr Clare Arnott

Meet A/Professor Clare Arnott, Head of the Cardiovascular Program

A/Professor Clare Arnott is Head of the Cardiovascular Program and Director of the Global Better Treatments Program at The George Institute for Global Health and Staff Specialist cardiologist at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.

Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your work. What were your motivations for becoming a cardiologist?

I am a Staff Specialist Cardiologist at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Head of the Cardiovascular Program and Director of the Global Better Treatments Program at The George Institute for Global Health, and an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of New South Wales. I was born and bred in Sydney and from a small child I wanted to be a doctor. I recall telling everyone I wanted to be a Paediatric Cardiologist. As I grew I realised I liked children too much to work in Paediatrics, I was sure that I would spend more of my day crying than helping people! I still have so much respect for paediatricians, I imagine it must be one of the most difficult jobs in the world.

I have always loved people and science, so medicine was a perfect fit for me. It is such an honour to be invited into people's lives and trusted with their personal information and health. It is also an incredible challenge. We are working with an incredibly complex machine (the human body) that we didn't design and don't fully understand.

I was drawn to cardiology because the heart is quite simply amazing. In cardiology you have to treat some of the most serious, and complex conditions but you have the potential to make great impact. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide, so the challenge is important.

I took a fairly straight path to cardiology, but it wasn't without hurdles. I had my first child whilst training and recall going back to work full time with a 12 week old baby, no sleep and very little clue how I was going to survive. My incredible family made that possible for me and I am so grateful. I had my second child during my cardiac MRI fellowship. He was with me at work from 1 week old...

I am sure he is the only 7 year old who could tell you how to do a cardiac MRI! Being able to bring him to work at that time enabled me to come back to work early without missing those precious moments with him and I know I was so lucky to have had supportive co-workers and supervisors.

Q: What were your motivations for joining The George Institute and why is being involved in research important to you as well as working as a practising cardiologist?

I have always had a passion for equity and global medicine. The George Institute really resonated with me because its key tenet of equitable health care for all aligned so closely with my values.

Every day in my clinical work I see patients that I cannot cure or that I do not know how to best manage based on the current evidence base. I believe we owe it to our patients to keep striving for these answers and providing the best care we possibly can. Research allows me to ask these questions and strive for the answers. For me, it is an essential part of being a physician.

Q: Can you tell us what a typical day of what being a cardiologist and Head of the Cardiovascular Program is like?

For me, every day is different. My clinical work as a cardiologist involves seeing patients in hospital and in outpatient clinics, performing echocardiograms and cardiac CTs. My research days involve lots of meetings, writing, reading, supervising, and mentoring a team… and more meetings! In all honesty, most days are a combination of both so there is a lot of running around! You never know when a patient will become sick or a research deadline will approach and your 'routine' will go out the door. This makes every day interesting and challenging. It also means there is no start or finish to the day and my children often tell me to 'get off the phone mummy' or to close my computer! Luckily, we can always find time for home life too.

Q: What project(s) are you working on currently?

At the moment I am working on some incredibly interesting projects that span cardiometabolic disease, women’s cardiovascular disease and climate change. For example, we are undertaking a study to predict cardiovascular disease in women using their routine screening mammogram. Another study aims to provide a new ‘first line therapy’ for those with type 2 diabetes that will slow the development of diabetic kidney disease.

Q: Why is heart health equity important to you and why is it important to raise awareness to it today on World Heart Day?

We are so lucky to be born in Australia, to have access to education, healthcare and safety but we often take this for granted. I believe that every single person on this earth is as important as each other and that we must strive to ensure health care is universally available. Those who are most at risk of cardiovascular disease are also often the most disadvantaged. As a global community we must strive to change this and advocate for those who do not have the opportunities that we do. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death globally in men and women but it is also often preventable. For me, World Heart Day is about putting this on the agenda of everyone and working together to ensure no one dies of a preventable disease. Together, we can make a great impact.

Q: In your expert opinion what do you believe is the biggest challenge for heart health equity facing Australia at the moment?

I work in Women's Heart Disease and certainly, I am very passionate about sex and gender inequities in Australia and I am working hard to address these. For me, however, the greatest inequity in Australia is the rates of cardiovascular disease and death in our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. Current data suggests an Aboriginal woman in Australia is twice as likely to die of cardiovascular disease as a non-Aboriginal woman. Heart-breaking and unacceptable statistics that The George Institute is helping address through a program improving cardiovascular care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.