After 20 years of ‘collaboration and synergy’ with the Division of Cardiology, Kathleen Maginot will step into retirement

Woman standing in outdoor garden next to brass rotating wind ornaments

When she was asked to join the Department of Pediatrics faculty in 2003, Kathleen Maginot, MD, now associate professor in the Division of Cardiology and associate director of its fellowship program, had already established herself with over a decade of service in electrophysiology and pacing, and she was director of pacing at the then Children’s Hospital–San Diego. Her move back to her Midwest origins saw her joining a division of cardiology that her presence increased by 33 percent. She and three others comprised the entire division. “We all shared the workload together with a wonderful nurse practitioner and a clinic nurse,” Maginot described. “It was great — and everything started growing at that point.”

At the time, the division was at the threshold of a great transformation. A new Department of Pediatrics chair arrived in 2006 — Ellen Wald, MD, now professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases, and the opening of the American Family Children’s Hospital in 2007 ushered in 17 years of steady strategic growth and prodigious medical advancement for all divisions, especially for cardiology. Maginot has seen her division grow to 19 faculty members, six clinical staff, and more than a dozen trainees, scientists, and staff members. With a wide range of expertise, pediatric cardiology now offers myriad treatments — including pediatric heart transplants — no one could have dreamed of in 2003. After 30 years of service, 20 of those years in this Department of Pediatrics, Maginot will retire at the end of June.

Even with an undergraduate degree in microbiology, Maginot at first decided against medicine, thinking that a career in dentistry would allow her more time for a family. In her first year of study in Minneapolis, however, it became clear that dentistry was not for her. She switched to the then University of Wisconsin School of Medicine, knowing that she had already been taking the same courses as medical students and doing well.

In medical school she first experienced how crucial and transformative the influence of an excellent mentor could be in the person of William E. “Bill” Segar, MD. “There was a mentor program that paired a retired or emeritus physician with a class,” Maginot explained. “Dr. Segar started with us in first year and went through it all with us. He made a huge impression on me. I think I and a lot of others went into pediatrics because of him.” Maginot noted that while she enjoyed all her rotations, she noticed that people in pediatrics seemed to be so much happier than those in any other specialty.

After earning her MD in 1989, Maginot completed her residency in pediatrics at Children’s Hospital Medical Center of the University of Cincinnati, which had a large cardiology program.

She served a subsequent fellowship in Los Angeles in pediatric cardiology at the UCLA Center for Health Services. The renowned pediatric cardiologist Samuel Kaplan, MD, was there. This fellowship shepherded her to a path focusing on pediatric arrhythmia. The chief of the division there, Roberta G. Williams, MD, became another role model for her. “A female chief was very unusual,” Maginot explained. “It was deeply affecting for me to know a woman was in this position — to know that it was possible. She was very down-to-earth and wonderful — such a great mentor!” She stayed on the faculty at UCLA for several years after her fellowship.

Maginot didn’t think twice about returning to the University of Wisconsin when a position was offered: “It’s a university that I loved, and one of the things I’ve loved about it is its mentorship,” she said. One new mentor for Maginot was then-interim department chair, Christopher Green, MD, now professor emeritus and interim chief of the Division of Pulmonology and Sleep Medicine. He took an active and integral part in recruiting her and became a great friend and mentor. Another reason she came to the UW was Craig January, MD, PhD, a professor in the Department of Medicine Division of Cardiovascular Medicine. “Dr. January did a lot of long QT syndrome (LQTS) work, which is an inherited arrhythmia that I was very interested in,” Maginot explained. “When I met him in an interview, he said let’s build an inherited arrhythmia program together.” January proposed a joint program in which Maginot would see the children and he would see the adults: they would have the families together. “He proposed getting a genetics counselor and it just grew from there,” Maginot explained. “So, we’ve had a wonderful relationship with an adult cardiologist. That’s one of the great things about this university — collaboration.”

Maginot described her career in the department as a reflection of the amazing people around her. “There is enormous collaboration and synergy here; I feel it on all levels,” Maginot said, “from the chief to the chair, from all of my colleagues, nurse practitioners, nurses, MAs, and staff. We cannot do our jobs without these fantastic people around us.”

Beyond her clinical work, Maginot has also contributed to the education of trainees as the associate director of the division’s fellowship program, receiving several awards for educational excellence.

Maginot’s colleague in the Division of Cardiology, Shardha Srinivasan, MBBS, MD, associate professor and director of fetal cardiology, offered unqualified praise for her work. “I have had the pleasure of working with Kathleen Maginot for over 20 years now. She is remarkably well rounded and multifaceted. A highly accomplished pediatric cardiologist and electrophysiologist, she helped establish the service here at UW and has spearheaded the pediatric inherited arrhythmias clinic,” Srinivasan said. “An excellent educator and mentor, she has been recognized by the residents and medical students several times. She has been a champion for the division, building regional relationships with providers and patients alike. Most off all, she is an amazing human being: smart, compassionate, caring, and a great friend and colleague.”

J. Carter Ralphe, MD, professor and chief of the Division of Cardiology, offered his summary of her work. “Through her clinical skills and deep empathy, Maginot has helped countless children in Wisconsin to grow and thrive,” Ralphe said. “Her compassion and personal approach have shaped the culture of the division of pediatric cardiology and contributed immensely to the growth and success of the program.”

Five Questions for Kathleen Maginot, MD

How has your career surprised you, compared to how you had expected it to develop when you began?

I think the biggest surprise for me has been that there are many different ways to do things; one way is not necessarily the best way. When you come out of training, you think the way that you’ve learned has to be the right way. It’s not true. It’s important to give people you’re working with options so they understand and learn, especially trainees, but also peers and patients. Learning from experiences — both good and bad — is also important. I learned a lot from people I did not want to be like.

What do you consider to be your biggest achievement?

This may seem a little bit out of the ordinary, but I think my biggest achievement has been being able to balance my career with my family. And the things I’ve learned from my kids have also helped me to be a better doctor. To be able to be close with my kids and also have this career has been really wonderful. My children, Maddie and Anders, are now making their own ways in the world: Maddie in veterinary school and Anders in accounting — working in Argentina! I feel fortunate to have had their support always.

What has been your largest obstacle to overcome?

I have to say that all the obstacles that I overcame, or was faced with, were just the obstacles that everybody was overcoming in those days. They didn’t seem as big because everyone was going through them, and we had a great support system. In medical school, residency, and fellowship as junior attending, we all helped each other out. So, it didn’t seem like there were huge obstacles. I have had a wonderful career.

What advice would you offer to new physicians just starting out?

When I was in fellowship, one of the program directors said to me, “You know, your biggest fault is that you get too attached to your patients.” But I don’t think that being attached to people is a problem. I would encourage people to enjoy the experience, to try to have a good balance, have some time outside of work to do things, but most of all, to really enjoy everything. It all goes by so fast.

Do you have specific plans for your retirement?

Thinking about retirement is both hard and incredibly easy: I want to be healthier, I want to travel, clean my house, but also think of ways I could help the community. It’s a work in progress, let me say.

Photo by Bob Gordon/Department of Pediatrics