Fast Five with Louise Segan

Louise Segan with her husband

When she’s not engaging with her patients, or in her atrial fibrillation research, in her spare time (what spare time?), cardiologist-researcher Dr Louise Segan can sometimes be found engaging with about 10,000 others each month as co-host on her husband’s podcast Humans of Purpose. Learn more about Louise’s work, life and mission in this month’s Fast Five.

How did you find your way to the Baker Institute?

I have been a researcher with the Baker Institute since my time as a junior resident medical officer. I was fortunate to work with Professor David Kaye in the Heart Failure Research group in those formative years — this provided the foundation and inspiration to pursue a career as a clinician researcher. More recently, through the PhD program, I have been able to immerse myself more within the Baker community, including attending events, networking and more, recently presenting at the Institute’s Quarterly Research Prize session.

What’s your area of interest and why did you choose that as your specialty?

I remember cultivating an interest in cardiology early on as a medical student. This followed a memorable tutorial with a cardiologist who first taught me to read ECGs (electrocardiograms) and auscultate the heart. I remember thinking how amazing it was to have a window into the mechanics of the heart with just some lines on a page and via a stethoscope. My enthusiasm for Cardiology stemmed from this one pivotal experience. Years later, I now consider that same cardiologist to be a mentor and a colleague.

More recently, I have subspecialised in the field of Cardiac Electrophysiology – focusing on cardiac arrhythmias and their management. Within that area, I am particularly passionate about AF research, specifically focusing on heart failure and prevention.

AF is the most common arrhythmia worldwide and is associated with significant morbidity and mortality. AF and heart failure commonly co-exist in up to one-third of individuals. Historically, there are heart failure specialists and AF specialists but I’ve always been interested in bridging the gap between AF and heart failure management and understanding more about this complex relationship so we can improve the care we provide for our patients.

What do you hope to achieve with your research?

I hope to continue to pursue a combined career as a clinician researcher in the field of AF management. I hope to explore innovative ways to embrace technological advances to enhance patient autonomy and patient care and plan to build upon our existing projects and generate new ideas within our research team. I also hope to make an ongoing contribution to the advances in clinical care and research within the Baker Institute and the Alfred Health communities.

In the future, I hope to mentor other clinicians in their early career stage, be a visible role model to other aspiring clinicians and provide ongoing advocacy that encourages diversity within our field.

You juggle a lot of balls at once, working in clinics, researching your PhD and raising a young family, how have you been supported to manage all those competing interests?

I’m very fortunate to have received considerable support along my journey. I have a few wonderful mentors (formal and informal) who’ve provided career advice as well as advice about work-life balance. My husband and family are an immense source of support in my career pursuits and have lifted me up through every challenge. My PhD supervisors, Prof Peter Kistler, Prof Jon Kalman and A/Prof Sandeep Prabhu were immensely supportive when I was embarking on family planning, particularly as my journey into motherhood was not quite as smooth as I had hoped.

I experienced unexpected fertility issues that required weekly medical appointments and treatments over more than a 12-month period. My supervisors were extremely kind, compassionate and understanding during this challenging process and throughout my pregnancy. Despite the support, this was a somewhat isolating time, as there remains a distinct lack of female mentors within my field on whom I could lean on for support. I hope that by sharing my experience, it may remove some of the taboo and encourage others to provide and seek support from their networks.

Finally, I’m extremely grateful to the Baker Institute for its unwavering support throughout my PhD and for the opportunity to receive the Bright Sparks Top-up scholarship, which has meant I can continue to pursue my research projects after returning from parental leave. These scholarships help to support those experiencing interruptions to their training and/or research journey and are a wonderful way to enhance diversity within the organisation.

Tell us something about you that not many people might know.

Firstly, I’m a twin — my brother is a rheumatologist. People are surprised to hear this, and then they see us together! I’m often told that we have similar mannerisms, despite him being approximately 1 foot taller than me.

The other thing people may not know about me is that I moonlight as an occasional co-host for my husband’s podcast, Humans of Purpose. I am incredibly proud of his efforts with this project. This is a podcast which he created from scratch, before podcasting was popular, and he has worked tirelessly over many years to perfect every element and to build his audience over more than 300 episodes. I’m looking forward to honing my interviewing skills over time through this venture and look forward to many more opportunities to co-host with him in our spare time.

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