Editor’s note: In honor of International Women’s Day, CRTonline.org is running this article about the keynote for the Women in Heart Symposium at CRT 2023, given by Julie Tyler, the president of Abbott’s vascular business, on Sunday, Feb. 26. This text originally appeared as part of an email summary of highlights from the second day of CRT 2023.
Julie Tyler’s daughter Meredith was born in 1996 with a congenital heart defect. She was treated by cardiologists even before she was born. She received her first pacemaker before she turned 1 and her first defibrillator before she turned 4.
“She spent the majority of her life with cardiologists in hospitals,” said Julie Tyler, the president of Abbott’s vascular business, during the keynote for the Women in Heart Symposium at CRT 2023 in Washington, D.C. “She had a dream of being a cardiologist herself. She so desperately wanted to be a cardiologist because she wanted to help people the way people helped her.”
Tyler used the story of her daughter as a prime example of her charge to the audience: When you go about your work seeing patients, enrolling subjects in clinical trials, or compiling reports with statistics about those trials, remember that there are people behind those names and numbers.
Even though Meredith was in and out of the hospital all of her life, she was a “tough little cookie,” Tyler said. Meredith loved to dance, loved theater, “was a consumer of books.” Any time Tyler went on a business trip, Meredith insisted that she bring her new books to read.
When she was 8, Meredith was appalled by a Valentine’s Day class project in which the students were instructed to write kind notes on valentines. Why did this bother her so?
“She was appalled by it because this is not anatomically correct, it’s not the shape of a heart,” Tyler said. Eventually, Tyler said, she convinced her daughter to agree to follow the instructions, despite her misgivings.
Tyler said Meredith had the future planned.
When Meredith realized her dream of becoming a cardiologist, Tyler would retire from Abbott and run for president of the U.S. Then, once Meredith “got married to the most wonderful man in the world,” Tyler would “step back so I could take care of her kids, so she could pursue her career.”
“Unfortunately, that didn’t happen,” Tyler said. “On Feb. 6, 2008, she passed away. She had a ventricular tachycardia. The tachycardia came in just under where the device was registered to give her a shock.”
The night before, Tyler and her family had celebrated her being promoted to vice president at Abbott for the first time. After excitedly discussing what Tyler was going to buy Meredith and redecorate her room, “she looked at me and she said, ‘Mommy, I’m so proud of you,’” Tyler said.
“And then she looked at me and she said, ‘You go, Mommy, you just go,’” Tyler said. “So, every day since then, I decided to use my pain for her voice, to help others the way she wanted to help people.”
Today, as president of Abbott’s vascular business, Tyler is the company’s only female senior vice president. During a question-and-answer session, CRT 2023 Course Chairman Ron Waksman, MD, asked Tyler whether her male colleagues accepted her as she moved up the ranks.
She said her motto was to show that she belonged not by her words, but with her actions. She strived to work harder than her job description required, to “try to act in such a way that you can see me operating in the next role before I have it.”
She acknowledged both during the question-and-answer session and her speech that, “We have made some progress, but I think there is a whole lot more progress that has to be made, quite frankly.”
Tyler closed her speech by challenging the audience to remember the reason for their profession.
“Whatever needs to be done – whether it’s outcomes for patients, whether it's awareness for women, whether it’s representation within this space, whether it be women or members of our communities – we have an obligation for the people that we serve to do that.
“So not just as the president of Abbott’s vascular business, but also as Meredith’s mom, my challenge is for all of us to go – just go – because lives and legacies depend on it and because the clock is still ticking.”
Photo Caption: Julie Tyler, the president of Abbott’s vascular business, and CRT 2023 Course Chairman Ron Waksman, MD, stand with artwork created by Waksman’s wife, Tali, which he presented to Tyler as a gift after the Women in Heart Symposium keynote at CRT 2023 in Washington, D.C., on Sunday, Feb. 26.
Photo Credit: Shmulik Almany for CRTonline.org