When Marjorie Stanek was a little girl, she accompanied her physician father on his house visits and hospital rounds. “He loved medicine,” she said, remembering that he inspired many members of the extended family to pursue careers in medicine. And even though she almost passed out while watching him perform surgery when she was a young teen, she became a doc, too.
Stanek is in her 40th year of practice at Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia, where she was the first full-time female cardiologist when she was hired in 1977. Now, she’s been named the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women 2017 Woman of Heart Award.
“I love cardiology and I’m thrilled to be honored by this wonderful organization for my work,” said Dr. Stanek, 70, who lives in Huntingdon Valley.
The award recognizes an “outstanding healthcare professional who has made it their mission to make a difference in the lives of those who have been impacted by heart disease,” according to the American Heart Association.
“I often think about my patients, especially in the middle of the night. You’re never free of that.”
Dr. Stanek was among the women pioneers who broke gender barriers when they became physicians.
Her husband’s class of 160 at Temple Medical School had eight women. She attended Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania—now Drexel—and said she’s “grateful” for the opportunity to pursue the career she loved, rather than bitter at the discrimination that may have kept her out of a coed school.
And while she mentions that the first hospital she applied to offered her only a little more than half the salary offered to a male contemporary, she says it with a smile and a shrug. The changes in the medical landscape have been vast, both in terms of gender discrimination and advances in treatment, she said. Nearly half of all medical students are women today. And scientific research has revealed many ways to prevent heart disease, with diet, exercise and medication, and to diagnose and treat it.
She mentions statin medications, new electrophysiology procedures, stents, and the ability to look up information easily on the internet as among the most dramatic developments.
Dr. Stanek’s father was an otolaryngologist, specializing in diseases of the ear, nose and throat, as was her late husband. Her brother was a neurologist. Her son, the youngest of three children, is a resident at Temple University Hospital. Her oldest daughter is a pediatric nurse practitioner and her middle daughter is a law school graduate. She hopes her six grandchildren follow in the family’s medical footprint.
One thing hasn’t changed for Dr. Stanek over the years. The concern for her patients.
“I often think about my patients, especially in the middle of the night,” she said. "You’re never free of that."
Dr. Stanek has no plans to retire any time soon.