“I was determined to be a doctor. I wanted to be something that was very far from the norm for women in those days and being a doctor was about as far as you could get.”
“ASTUTE CLINICIAN, AUTHOR, DEEPLY CARING HEALER ”
Barbara Roberts has long been passionate about women's rights and women's health issues, especially heart disease. “For many centuries, medicine has been controlled by men — most physicians were men — and it was felt that you could study men and generalize those results to women. But we know now that's not the case,” she declares.
As the first female adult cardiologist in the state — who was also the first woman ever accepted into the Gorlin cardiology fellowship at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, a Harvard University Medical School Teaching Hospital — Roberts has dedicated her career to improving the cardiovascular health of women.
She is currently director of the Women's Cardiac Center at the Miriam Hospital and an Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine for the Brown University Program in Medicine. In addition, she has maintained a private cardiology practice since arriving in Providence, in 1977.
“When I came to Rhode Island, specialized cardiac care for women was non-existent,” Roberts recalls. “There is much that women can and should do to lower their risk of heart disease and live longer, healthier lives. Worldwide over eight million women die each year from heart disease or stroke, almost eighteen times the number who die of breast cancer and six times more than the number who die of HIV/AIDS.”
The Women's Cardiac Center which she directs offers a comprehensive approach to heart health, with diagnostic and clinical services, access to surgery, angioplasty and stent, and rehabilitation and behavioral medicine services. To address the international epidemic of heart disease in women, Roberts also is involved in ProCOR, an e–mail and Internet–based organization committed to global cardiovascular health, and especially women's heart health in the developing world.
Wrote Senator Lincoln Chafee [R–RI] in nominating her as a Local Legend, “Dr. Roberts is now a national and international pioneer in women's cardiovascular health. She is also known as an astute clinician and deeply caring healer.”
Married and the mother of three adult children, she has been widely recognized for her achievements. She was named Physician of the Year in 2003 by the Rhode Island Heart Association, an affiliate of the American Heart Association. In 2000 she was selected by the Rhode Island Medical Women's Association as Physician of the Year, and by Brown University School of Medicine as Teacher of the Year.
Her enduring commitment to women's health is demonstrated by her new book, “How to Keep From Breaking Your Heart— What Every Woman Needs to Know about Cardiovascular Disease.”
“I wrote my book basically to instruct women about what the heart does normally, what are the symptoms when things go wrong and how you can prevent heart disease. Because it was published after the Women's Health Initiative Study, it is the only book out there that contains all the latest scientific evidence on women and heart disease,” Roberts states.
To young women considering a life in medicine, she advises, “If it is your dream to be a doctor, don't let anybody tell you you can't, and keep working until your dream comes true!”
Opens private cardiology practice
Becomes first director of newly opened Women's Cardiac Center, the Miriam Hospital, Providence
Case Western Reserve University