Marian Vandyck-Acquah, M.D.
Director of Quality and Education, Noninvasive Cardiology & Director of the Noninvasive Cardiology Lab at Hackensack University Medical Center, Heart & Vascular Hospital & Assistant Professor of Medicine, Cardiovascular – Hackensack Meridian Health School of Medicine
Updated: February 24, 2022
Women have historically been underrepresented in the nation’s physician workforce, varying by race, socioeconomic status and geography. According to data released by the Association of American Medical Colleges in February of 2021, more women are becoming physicians – representing 36.3 percent in 2019 compared to 28.3 percent in 2007. Specialties with the highest percentages of women in 2019 were pediatrics (64.3 percent) and obstetrics and gynecology (58.9 percent).
“It’s still very uncommon for females to be cardiologists, and Black female cardiologists are even rarer,” said Dr. Marian Vandyck-Acquah, director of Quality and Education, Noninvasive Cardiology and director of the Noninvasive Cardiology Lab at Hackensack University Medical Center, Heart & Vascular Hospital and assistant professor of Medicine, Cardiovascular – Hackensack Meridian Health School of Medicine.
“It was a man’s world for quite a few years, but it’s changing now,” said Dr. Vandyck-Acquah. “Women may have shied away because they were concerned about work-life balance. There might have been some concern about radiation exposure caused by all the imaging we do. At Hackensack University Medical Center however we have a good cohort of diverse female cardiologists.”
Dr. Vandyck-Acquah was not deterred. “I like action. I like impact. We all know that heart disease is the number one killer for both men and women. It is also the one condition you can make a significant impact in through prevention,” she said. “Cardiology offers you the opportunity to be able to identify – from the beginning, even in a young adult or teenager – things that can be changed along the way. Aggressive risk modification can make a big dent in deaths.”
Breaking down barriers and hurdles, Dr. Vandyck-Acquah graduated from the University of Ghana. She left her home in West Africa and came to the United States to pursue her passion in Cardiology. She worked in research at NYU and subsequently did an internship and residency in Internal Medicine at Mount Sinai-Beth Israel Medical Center followed by a fellowship in Cardiovascular disease. Upon completion, Dr. Vandyck-Acquah was appointed director of Outpatient Cardiology at Beth Israel, establishing an offsite noninvasive testing center.
“Back then, I had more male mentors who were very supportive. They recognized my skills and strengths. They saw that I was totally capable,” she said. “Anybody can mentor a student, a young cardiologist or a fellow regardless of who they are. We don’t always have enough female cardiologists to mentor the young ones.”
Dr. Vandyck-Acquah just might be the secret to increasing the number of female cardiologists. She is a great role model and mentor. She specializes in advanced cardiac imaging, is certified in Cardiac CTA, performs nuclear cardiology, advanced echocardiography, cardiac consultations and preventive cardiology. “I have two kids. The interesting thing is I had both my children during my residency while training. I was a second-year resident for my first and a chief resident for the second one. You have to figure out how you can work and live and know they aren’t separate,” she shared. “I try to teach the young fellows and the young medical students that you manage your life the best you can, so they merge into one.”
After commuting into the city every day while raising a family in New Jersey, Dr. Vandyck-Acquah thought it was time to find something close to home. Joining Hackensack University Medical Center allowed her to be close to home, attend her children’s sporting events as they grew up and do the work she loves. “This is life. It’s important for your sanity to mix the two, to make it work. I like to show young physicians in training, who are fearful they won’t have a life if they go into cardiology – it’s important for them to see it’s doable,” shared Dr. Vandyck-Acquah. “You can excel, live and be present for your family life, see patients and be part of the community all at the same time.”
Twenty-six years as a cardiologist speaks to just how well Dr. Vandyck-Acquah was able to marry her home life with her career. Both her kids were math and science focused and went into computer engineering. Their friends have spent summers shadowing her and some are currently in medical school.
It’s important to actively promote the presence of women within cardiology. Increasing cardiology workforce diversity has the potential to reduce health care disparities. “If people saw a physician they could identify with, they would listen more and pay attention,” explained Dr. Vandyck-Acquah. “Heart disease is not just a man’s illness, it’s equally a woman’s illness and is increasing in the African American female.” She strongly believes in maintaining the highest quality of care for her patients and it shows in the abundance of five-star reviews she receives online from her patient population.
Dr. Vandyck-Acquah also holds an active administrative role, improving the quality of both inpatient and outpatient noninvasive cardiac testing. She is a clinical preceptor for students at the HMH School of Medicine and fellows rotate in her labs. Yet, she remains attached to her patients and maintains a lot of clinical contact. “I do a lot of multiple modality imaging,” she explained. “You want to see the patient and you also want to take them through to the right diagnosis and the right treatments. You have to have what I call: the right test for the right patient – patient-centered imaging.”
Her greatest sense of satisfaction is “easily, my patients. I completely enjoy interacting with them, learning from them, seeing them transition from one issue to becoming a healthy knowledgeable cardiac patient,” Dr. Vandyck-Acquah said. “The fact that you’re making a change in their lives every single day, is what I find most rewarding. It’s a joy.”
As we transition from February’s Heart Month and Black History Month, to March and Women’s History Month, Dr. Vandyck-Acquah’s a shining example why representation matters in health care, and we are so happy to have her mentoring a next generation of physicians as a part of team HMH.