The doctor behind our Healthy Heart Program

Susan Gilchrist, M.D., loves to take on a challenge and to build things. Her latest passion is building a program that helps cancer patients return to, or even exceed, their levels of heart health prior to diagnosis. A new twist on her efforts is offering to play tennis with patients. It’s a game Gilchrist knows very well. The Huntsville, Alabama, native started playing tennis at age 9. “My dad was taking tennis lessons and invited me to join him,” Gilchrist says. “I quickly fell in love with the sport and started playing every day when my coach said that’s what my idol, Billie Jean King, did.” As a teen, she received scholarship offers from major universities around the country. She accepted the one from The University of Texas at Austin (UT). Road to a national championship During college, Gilchrist was a four-time All-American in singles and doubles and a three-time Southwest Conference Player of the Year. She led the team that won four straight conference titles and, in 1993, the national championship. Gilchrist had set the bar even higher for herself. She wanted to be the best tennis player in the world. But in her last collegiate tournament, she tore her rotator cuff. While she was able to play professional tennis briefly, the injury limited the next stage of her career. “I got to play in the U.S. Open and the French Open and compete against some of the world’s greatest players, including Martina Navratilova and Pam Shriver, but the injury wasn’t going to allow me to reach my goal, so I decided it was time to move on,”...