Initially Dr. Jennifer Emmons planned to practice family medicine. But something happened when she was in med school. She did something she had never done before and it absolutely affected her ambitions—she read an entire textbook. About the heart.
“I was just so fascinated about it all that it almost felt like fun reading, not just school work,” she says. “I think for me it involves a lot of physics (which was never my favorite in undergrad!) but when applied to how the heart works and blood flow in the body in general, it makes sense. And I see how affecting one part can change how the heart functions for the better or the worse.”
Fast-forward to the present and you’ll find Dr. Emmons with Munson Medical Center’s Traverse Heart & Vascular team in Traverse City and Grayling, focusing on cardiology and echocardiography. After growing up in Grayling, she is ecstatic to be back in Northern Michigan.
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What’s one thing about cardiology you’re most passionate about?
“Cardiovascular disease is the number-one cause of death for both men and women. I feel like it’s not talked about enough that it’s the number-one cause of death in women, specifically. There’s a big movement for breast cancer, etc., but more women actually die of heart disease or stroke.”
What is something you wish your patients would speak up about more?
“Often people who have chest discomfort say, ‘Oh I just assumed it was this.’ I think it’s human nature to assume it’s something less serious than your heart. But it’s better to make sure it’s NOT your heart, and to not assume it’s heartburn—which presents differently in everyone, particularly in women. Women who get chest pain may have atypical symptoms: it could be shoulder pain, jaw pain or shortness of breath or nausea. If they’re getting any of those symptoms with exertion, and only with exertion, it’s much more concerning for heart disease.”
Tell us about the testing available to help prevent heart disease?
“I am more into non-invasive testing, so I love being able to get answers for patients non-invasively if possible. I think for women in general, there’s more research going into the risk factors that lead to heart disease. If we can help make them aware that their risk is higher, and start more preventative measures earlier in life (between their childbearing years and when cardiovascular disease usually presents), there’s good potential to help.”