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Knowledge Is Power

Through advanced multimodal cardiac imaging, Dr. Mrin Shetty can predict heart disease before it happens.

LOUISVILLE Many women believe breast cancer is the leading cause of death amongst their gender. In actuality, heart disease claims nearly eight times the number of female lives yearly. According to Mrin Shetty, MD, an advanced multimodal imaging cardiologist and director of the Women’s Heart Health Program with UofL Health – Heart Hospital, “The truth is breast cancer kills about one in thirty women, but heart disease kills one in three women. And the main culprit is coronary artery disease.”

There are many other misconceptions that Shetty also encounters in her role. First, that heart disease presents itself the same in men and women. Shetty states, “Women are not small men. We may have the same disease process but present very differently. For example, a heart attack doesn’t always present with chest pain in women, it may manifest as progressive fatigue, lightheadedness, indigestion, nausea, vomiting. Historically, women’s symptoms have been brushed off and under-recognized, and I feel like we need to change that.”

Another fallacy that exists is that heart disease only affects older women; younger women in certain groups are also at high risk. These include patients during pregnancy and those undergoing chemotherapy for breast or some other cancer. For Shetty, shedding light on these false beliefs and using advanced cardiac imaging techniques to predict disease are the first steps in the prevention of coronary artery disease and detection of infiltrative cardiomyopathies. “We need to give women the cardiovascular care that they deserve in a welcoming and safe environment where they feel that they are heard. And that is exactly what I’m trying to do with the Women’s Heart program,” Shetty says.

After growing up and attending medical school in Mumbai, India, Shetty moved to the U.S. to participate in externships with Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and Mount Sinai in New York City. She then went on to complete an internal medicine residency at Saint Peter’s University Hospital – Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick, New Jersey, where she served as chief resident. During her cardiology fellowship at the University of Chicago (NorthShore) program, Shetty filled the role of chief cardiology fellow. She then completed her formal education with advanced cardiac imaging training at Columbia University in New York. Following this training, Shetty came to the University of Louisville in 2023.

Advanced Multimodal Cardiac Imaging Is an Emerging Field

Multimodality imaging, a relatively new subspecialty within the broader field of cardiology, utilizes advanced imaging techniques, such as cardiac computed tomography (CCT), echocardiography, positron emission tomography (PET), cardiac magnetic resonance (CMR), and nuclear cardiology to view cardiac anatomy and function to assess risk and pathology.

In the past, patients may have been given a vague diagnosis of general heart failure or a thickened heart. Advanced imaging has changed that. Shetty explains, “Now, you can specifically find the cause of what is afflicting the heart muscle by looking at it in ways that we did not utilize in the past. We can detect atherosclerosis way before it becomes obstructive or symptomatic. In the right and motivated patient, they can take the steps necessary to never have that heart attack. And, to me, that is very exciting.”

Though still a niche within the field of cardiology, the value of multimodal imaging to offer greater insight into the cause and treatment of cardiovascular disease is undeniable for many types of patients, including high-risk individuals for whom screening may prevent future incidence, persons with unspecified chest pain, and those with undiagnosed infiltrative cardiomyopathy.

Along with her other duties, Shetty participates in research, serves on committees for academic societies, and has written numerous papers, all to move the needle forward in terms of cardiovascular imaging. Shetty is also devoted to her role as an educator—both of future physicians and of patients. As an assistant professor of medicine at the UofL School of Medicine, Shetty is highly involved with the cardiology fellows as well as residents and medical students from internal medicine, family medicine, and even pharmacy.

Looking Forward to a Bright Future with UofL Health

The primary reasons Shetty and her husband, Dr. Yuvraj Chowdhury, who is an interventional cardiologist, chose UofL Health were the institution’s leadership, clear vision, and dedication to growth and excellence. According to Shetty, “For early-career physicians, like my husband and me, you want to jump on the wagon when there’s excitement and a lot of positive energy going into building a program.”

In 2022, Kim Williams, MD, who is considered one of the grandfathers of cardiology, joined UofL Health as the chair of the department of medicine. Dinesh Kalra, MD, serves as the director of Advanced Cardiac Imaging, Lipid Clinic & Infiltrative Heart Disease Program. Shetty states, “For an advanced imager, like me, having Dr. Williams and Dr. Kalra as your mentors, that’s an opportunity you don’t pass up.”

Shetty is also enthusiastic about the impact the Women’s Heart Program can have throughout the state. “I think it is an exciting time. We have a dedicated team of cardiologists who are committed to the care of the female heart. We’re collaborating with different specialties—OB-GYN, oncology, rheumatology—to better serve those high-risk patients who need dedicated cardiovascular care. We will be working on women-centered cardiac research and ensuring inclusivity in clinical trials and healthcare programs. Some people don’t expect to see that in their own local community, but we’re expanding our outreach and education.”

UofL Health’s cardiology department acknowledges the importance of health literacy. Through health fairs and community events, they hope to enlighten individuals to the fact that lifestyle plays a critical role in heart health.

The culmination of Shetty’s work is all in pursuit of one goal: allowing patients to live their best lives. Shetty says, “A lot of people just do not know how good their bodies can feel. Taking an individual with a body that is a vessel for suffering and pain and discomfort to one that becomes this instrument for vitality, I think that is a powerful thing. And having the ability to do that is what puts a spring in my step every day.”