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Ozlem Bilen steps into new role with passion and purpose
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Alexis Hauk
Director of Communications, Emory Heart & Vascular
Woman physician in white coat in front of hospital

Ozlem Bilen, MD, is excited to embrace the opportunity to lead at the institution that has molded her career.

— All photos courtesy of Ozlem Bilen.

Ozlem Bilen, MD, has always had a passion for accessible health care — something she says started early in childhood. Beginning Sept. 1, she will step into the role of hospital section chief of cardiology, continuing the legacy at Emory University Hospital’s (EUH) vision of innovation, advancement and excellent patient care.

Growing up in Tarsus, Turkey, Bilen didn’t see many woman doctors in the medical field. Possessed with an internal passion to help others, she would eventually receive her medical degree from Hacettepe University Hospital in Ankara, Turkey, where she graduated with a honors degree.

She moved to the United States in 2009, seeking career advancement, and landed in Houston, where she completed her residency training in internal medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.

Early on in her residency, as she was rotating through the division of cardiology, she remembers walking into a meeting with a pioneer in the cardiology field. As she entered the office of Anita Deswal, MD, Bilen noticed a picture on Deswal’s desk of her three children and beautiful family.

Bilen remembers being struck by how resilient, compassionate and successful Deswal was — which was an inspiration for the young resident in her budding career.

Now, in a moment of reflection as Bilen stands on the edge of an almost identical leadership role, “It almost gives me tears, to see myself in a similar situation," she says. “My life has come to a full circle and it’s a magical moment.”

After joining Emory in 2016 and completing her cardiovascular disease fellowship, Bilen knew she had found her professional home. This opportunity allowed her to advance and expand within her field of study, leading to her appointment as medical director of cardiology at the Emory Clinic and assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Cardiology with Emory School of Medicine in 2019.

Among many accomplishments, she has helped foster the region’s innovative hypertrophic cardiomyopathy program.

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is when the heart muscle thickens, affecting its ability to pump blood efficiently. Through this patient-centered practice, a comprehensive team of Emory cardiologists, cardiothoracic surgeons and cardiac electrophysiologists works with patients to determine which treatments are best suited for their specific condition. This can include medicine, pacemakers, surgery or other combinations of different therapies.

Under Bilen's steady guidance, the team has been able to carry out an extensive amount of research and clinical trials as part of this cutting-edge program.

On Bilen’s own desk now rests a picture of her own family: her two sons, her daughter and her husband, who is an oncologist, all beaming back at her, providing her with support and encouragement to navigate each day no matter the challenges she may face.  

Ozlem Bilen with her family.

“One of the most important reasons of why I do what I do is really because I have children, and I want them to not look far away to be able to find a role model," she says.

Outside of work hours, Bilen enjoys decompressing through exercise, hikes and walks with her family. She also finds joy in knitting, meditating and praying.

Her approach to managing a team includes working to understand each team member as an individual, identifying challenges and offering a listening ear or a helping hand if they need that support in their life.

“To reduce stress is to recognize stress. We are not just automated machines coming in to work, we’re rather human beings,” she says.

Her compassionate and understanding approach extends beyond her team; it flows into her patient-first mentality.

Moving forward, her goals include bringing in fresh concepts to the cardiology team at EUH. She aims to streamline processes by identifying and eliminating unnecessary steps, and is focused on cultivating a collegial work environment through clear communication, goals and expectations. 

Bilen wants to see Emory cardiology continue to grow and lead the way in health care. In the next five to ten years, she envisions herself and her colleagues operating within an exceptionally efficient system, always prioritizing and ensuring patient satisfaction.

Bilen is excited to embrace the opportunity to serve at the institution that has molded her career. It has been a full circle journey, but in many ways it’s also only the beginning.

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