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Myriam AMSALLEM: the future of medecine

Cardiology is an exciting branch of medicine that focuses on the study of the heart. Cardiologists are doctors who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of heart problems. The heart is a vital organ that pumps blood throughout the body, supplying oxygen and essential nutrients to our cells. Cardiology explores heart diseases such as congenital heart disease, coronary artery disease, cardiac arrhythmias and heart failure.

Myriam Amsallem is a cardiologist and researcher in new technologies: she takes us into the future of medicine!

Myriam AMSALLEM: the future of medecine

Hello everyone! My name is Myriam Amsallem and I've been living in San Francisco, California, in the United States for almost 10 years. I'm a doctor and cardiologist, but I'm also a researcher specialized in new technologies, and I'm currently Clinical Lead (i.e. I lead health research projects) in the Health Tech team at Meta (formerly Facebook).

My missions

I'm the Clinical Lead (i.e. I lead health research projects) in the Health Tech team at Meta (formerly Facebook).

I joined Meta (formerly known as Facebook) 3 years ago, at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, to develop new technologies that would enable billions of people to take care of their health and that of their loved ones. In three years, a lot has happened, I've developed the team (which has grown a lot), hired and met some exceptional people, and launched and completed numerous projects in research and digital health. Most of the projects I'm working on are still confidential, but I can't wait for them to become public so I can share more details.

As a cardiologist and scientist-researcher, I bring an expertise and a unique perspective to the tech world, helping to define the real health and public health issues that need to be addressed. I work on a daily basis with many people with different expertise (for example engineers) to create technologies and products that can improve everyone's health.

My career in cardiology

A cardiologist is a doctor who specializes in diseases of the vessels and heart. A cardiologist first goes to medical school (6 years at medical school, including 3 years half-time in the hospital and half-time at university, then a minimum of 4 years of specialization (internship) to deepen knowledge of heart and vessel diseases while practicing 100% of the time in the hospital).

Like many doctors, I see medicine as a passion, a vocation, not a job. As far back as I can remember, I've always wanted to help others. Around the age of 12, I was drawn to medicine when I first watched an episode of the TV series ER (one of the most realistic hospital series to date by the way). My childhood dream was to be a doctor in Cook County Hospital (the fictional hospital in the series) in the United States. I didn't fall so far from that dream after all, as I'm now a cardiologist in California..

The heart is a fascinating organ, both complex and simple. It is estimated that the heart beats almost 2.5 billion times in a lifetime. The heart's ability to circulate blood automatically in such a perfectly orchestrated way is something that has always fascinated me. I still remember that SVT lesson in seconde (in high school) when our teacher described to us the circulation of the left and right heart! I marveled at this parallel circulation that allows the blood to circulate and the heart valves (the doors that separate the heart chambers and the large vessels of the heart) to open and close, almost 60 times a minute!

Myriam AMSALLEM: the future of medecine
In hospital during my internship in Paris.

A few years later, when I was just starting a cardiology placement in my 3rd year of medicine, a patient presented in emergency with a myocardial infarction, meaning that his heart was suffering and no longer receiving sufficient blood because a coronary artery was blocked. It was a life-threatening emergency. I was able to watch live and even help the cardiologist unblock the artery in less than 30 minutes, bringing relief to the patient, eliminating his chest pain and saving his life!

That's what I've always loved about cardiology: it's a logical discipline (we understand most of how it works), we have plenty of tools to examine it (the stethoscope to listen to heart sounds, the electrocardiogram to record the heart's electrical activity, ultrasound and MRI to watch the heart contract and blood flow) and it has a myriad of solutions to help our patients (multiple drugs that save lives, improve symptoms), but also procedures and surgeries to repair the heart and replace it if necessary. It's an exciting and effective discipline!

And there are a lot of people we can help, because unfortunately heart and vessel diseases (such as heart attacks and strokes) are the leading cause of death in the world.

Myriam AMSALLEM: the future of medecine
Reading cardiac MRIs.

Cardiology deals with heart disease, and comprises several sub-specialties: rhythmology, which deals with disorders of the heart's electrical activity; interventional cardiology, which borders on surgery and enables the heart to be repaired via the arteries; and finally cardiac imaging, which is my speciality.

Cardiac imaging is the sub-specialty that uses modalities to 'see' the heart from the outside and take pictures of it: for example, by using ultrasound (the same technique that allows us to see babies in the womb), or larger machines such as the scanner or MRI. Being able to see the function of the heart or parts of the heart from the outside is fascinating!

Myriam AMSALLEM: the future of medecine
On the right is the ultrasound image of the heart, and in the middle the equivalent on an anatomical live feed. On the left is a 3-dimensional representation of the heart and the cardiac cross-section obtained with the ultrasound probe (white pen-shaped object at bottom right).

My background

I've had a very unusual career path. I've been involved in a number of disciplines that may seem very different (medicine, research and digital technology) but they all have the same thing in common: improving the health of others.

I began my studies in 2005 at the RTH Laennec School of Medicine at the University of Lyon I Claude Bernard.

Myriam AMSALLEM: the future of medecine
Faculty of medicine RTH Laennec - Lyon I.

In my day (and it probably hasn't changed) that first year was extremely difficult and competitive. At the end of the first year (P1), only 16% of my class of approximately 700 were selected to go on to the second year (P2). Coming to a new city, I was determined, passionate and worked really hard every day leading up to the exam, with constant moral support from my parents. This enabled me to pass my first year on the first try, and to my surprise I was ranked first (major) in my year. The rest of the 5 years of medical school were less stressful than the first year, but required just as much work and hours studying medicine and all its disciplines (anatomy, cardiology, etc.). But what a pleasure it was to learn on a daily basis, not only from our teachers and books, but also from the 3rd year of medicine onwards from practice and patients in hospital! At the end of the 6th year of medical school, another competition awaited me: the ECN: Examen Classant National (National Ranking Exam). This time it was a nationwide competition, ranking all 6th year medical students. The choice of speciality and training city for the next stage of medical studies (internship) depended on this ranking. Thanks to my ranking (10th/8000), I was able to choose my passion: cardiology and my city of choice: Paris. I then learned the profession of cardiologist as an intern in Paris, changing hospitals every 6 months for 4 years, which enabled me to learn my specialty and take care of several thousand patients throughout the Parisian region.

Alongside my medical studies, I began studying science, firstly a master's degree in science (biology), then a doctorate (thesis) in science at the Paris Saclay faculty and the Marie Lannelongue hospital in the Paris region. I then continued my work as a researcher, first as a postdoctoral student, then as a teacher and researcher (faculty) at the Stanford University School of Medicine in California (USA). I really enjoyed doing research, between the laboratory (photo below) and the patient's bedside, to open up the horizons of scientific knowledge and help improve the practice of medicine.

(1) At the lab during my MSc internship (2) At Stanford, during my post-doc (3) Stanford University campus (and my two little ones)

What I loved most was collaborating with biologists, surgeons and engineers to find solutions to improve the detection and management of heart and lung diseases, publishing them in scientific papers and sharing them with colleagues around the world.

In 2020, I was able to observe the evolution of medical practice with the Covid-19 pandemic. Patients suddenly no longer had the same access to care (as hospitals were overwhelmed by the pandemic) and I realized how digital health and new technologies could help people take care of their health. That's when I decided to join Facebook (now known as Meta) to work on digital health, and I'll soon be celebrating three years at Meta!

Promoting women's careers in science

Within my team at Meta, I run the Women in Science group, which helps people to support each other and develop their professional careers. I am passionate and determined to build a team and a team culture where everyone brings a diversity of ideas and experience, particularly in disciplines such as cardiology, science, academia or technology that have historically been closed off to women.

Outside of work...

Outside work, my free time is dedicated to enjoying my little 2-year-old twins, who love cooking and gardening with my wife and me. I'm lucky in my current job to be flexible, and to be able to balance work and family time. Having twins has taught me to be more efficient and focused on each area (work or family). I recognise that if I was working full time in hospital, I wouldn't have the same flexibility, and in the past this environment has been difficult and led me to burn out on more than one occasion. It's also one of the reasons why I chose this career path.

Myriam AMSALLEM: the future of medecine
My twins.

Some advices

About my career, I wouldn't change anything. It's true that my professional career has taken me through several fields (medicine, research, teaching and health technology) but each field gives me today a unique point of view on a daily basis that enables me to best help people take care of their health.

We need you! Cardiology and medicine, but also research, teaching and the world of technology, need talented women who bring a unique perspective! Yes, medicine will be a big part of your daily life, but it will be so exciting and you'll be saving thousands of lives, whether by caring for patients on a daily basis (as a doctor), making scientific discoveries that revolutionize knowledge (as a researcher), passing on your knowledge to hundreds of students (as a teacher) and/or developing new technologies that will help billions of people (in tech). So don't hesitate! Go for it! You can do it and you'll be great! I can't wait to see you win the Nobel Prize for Medicine in a few years' time!

I'd like to say a big thank you to the Sciences for Girls team and especially to you, the reader. I look forward to seeing you soon in California!

Edited by Sylvana S. & Mazzarine D.

Myriam AMSALLEM: the future of medecine

Find and contact her on Linkedin: Myriam Amsallem


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