It’s not easy to ask someone to make a promise, yet Dr. Leslie Douglas-Churchwell has been doing it for more than 20 years. As an internist with Nashville Medical Group, she’s asking women to promise to get healthier. She’s also educating women about heart disease — a pervasive, silent killer. Women aren’t often considered to be likely candidates for heart attacks, and the symptoms women experience can be elusive and hard to diagnose. Since February is Go Red For Women month — a collaboration between St. Thomas Health and the American Heart Association — we can’t think of anyone better to feature as our FACE of Nashville than Leslie. And let’s all promise to get healthier in 2014.
Are you originally from Nashville?
I am not, but I have enjoyed living in the city since 1994. Nashville is a beautiful jewel of the south. We moved from Atlanta, where people thought we were crazy for moving to Nashville. They did not realize that we live in a special place.
Where are you from?
I am originally from Baton Rouge, LA, another wonderful city that feels like another country. I love the regional cuisine. The city’s population has greatly increased since Hurricane Katrina.
In your role as spokesperson for Go Red For Women, what is your most important message for women?
I want women to meet with their doctors to determine their cardiac risk factors, and to take steps to improve their health. Women suffering from heart attacks tend to have atypical symptoms, such as fatigue, nausea or shortness of breath. We need to avoid trivializing these symptoms and seek medical care in a timely fashion. Untreated heart conditions can significantly affect morbidity and mortality.
Women suffer heart disease and attacks at an alarming rate; why do you think this is so?
Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of American women. Several medical problems prevalent in our country increase a person’s risk for heart disease over time. A large portion of our population suffers from high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol, which are some of the factors in poor heart health. Improvements in diet and exercise can result in significant reductions in cardiac risk.
What are some small things that the average American can do to be healthier?
There are several ways Americans can become healthier: exercise at least 30 minutes a day, increase intake of fruits and vegetables to at least five servings daily and take medications as prescribed by your physician. Exercise reduces blood pressure, cholesterol and blood-sugar levels. Diets rich in low-calorie fruits and vegetables, with less fat intake, may result in achieving and maintaining healthy weight — thus improving our health.
Who was an early mentor to you?
My earliest medical mentors were my father, Dr. Clarence E. Douglas, and my grandfather, Dr. Raymond D. Douglas. Both of them were graduates of Meharry Medical College. Observing their medical rounds and interactions with patients was rewarding and fascinating, and it planted the seed for my medical career.
My college mentors include Dr. Cornelia Gillyard in chemistry at Spelman College and Dr. Frederick Mapp at Morehouse College. He taught histology. At the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, several upperclassmen, particularly Everard Thomas, Karen Rodman and Andrea Johnson, were instrumental in my development.
During my residency at Emory University in Atlanta, I was mentored by Dr. Nanette Wenger, Dr. H. Kenneth Walker, Dr. Steve Clements and a very special mentor, the late Dr. J. Willis Hurst.
Dr. Wenger is a world-renowned cardiologist specializing in women’s health, and she is still practicing. About five years ago we went to a reception honoring her for 52 years of service to Grady Memorial Hospital.
Dr. Hurst was a world-renowned cardiologist who wrote textbooks and made accurate diagnoses of intricate cardiac diseases just by looking at EKGs! That is an amazing ability.
What is a valuable piece of advice you have been given?
Be kind to everyone, never burn bridges and give every patient the care that you would want for your own family member.
What is something that’s going on in Nashville these days that impresses you?
Several things in Nashville are impressive. The arts are strong with our fantastic opera company, great symphony and wonderful ballet. I love baseball and am excited about the new Sounds stadium. I am very proud of the recent winning ways of Vanderbilt football.
What’s coming up that you’re looking forward to attending?
The tennis match with John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl and other legends of the game (at Bridgestone Arena March 12). I am a great tennis fan, and I am excited about seeing them in person.
What are your favorite Nashville restaurants?
If you could change one thing about Nashville, what would it be?
I would like to improve education available to all our young people. Early childhood education is important. Fostering a love of learning is vital for Nashville’s growth. Our children are Nashville’s future.
What books are on your bedside table?
My bedside books include Inferno by Dan Brown, The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling and a personal favorite, A Life Constructed, written by my uncle Dr. Delon Hampton about his rise to become president of the American Society of Civil Engineers.
Do you have any irrational fears?
My irrational fears include snakes and lizards. I love all animals except those.
Do you have a favorite vacation spot?
My favorite vacation spots include Sea Island, GA, Paris, London and New York City.
Is there something our readers would be surprised to know about you?
I love crossword puzzles.
What are three things you can’t live without, excluding God, family and friends?
- long, luxurious bubble baths
- my cat Dawn
Thank you, Leslie! And, thank you, Ashley, for today’s beautiful photography. See more of Ashley’s photography at ashleyhylbert.com.
StyleBlueprint wants to offer a special thank you to Saint Thomas Health for their commitment to women and the health issues that most affect them.