Ildiko Agoston, M.D., grew up in Romania, where the wet, cold weather contributed to her frequent childhood illnesses. She remembers being fascinated by her doctors and their stethoscopes.
“When they listened to my heart, it was so quiet. Going to the doctor’s office was like going to church. It was a reverent place. I was in awe,” said Dr. Agoston, a general cardiologist with UT Medicine San Antonio and an associate professor of medicine at the UT Health Science Center San Antonio.
She remembers her grandmother and grandfather suffering from multiple health problems. “I felt so hopeless. I decided that if I could become a doctor, I could help them. I guess I always knew I wanted to be a doctor,” said Dr. Agoston, who immigrated to Hungary when she was 14.
Personalized medicine was never too far from Dr. Agoston. She said her childhood in Eastern Europe helped determine the type of doctor she would become.
“In our small villages, residents had a similar relationship with their doctors as they had with their priests. You sat down with them, and they patiently heard your life story. The doctors listened to the patients and related to them. In turn, patients trusted their doctors. I don’t just listen to their hearts. I listen to their symptoms and their life stories. By doing so, you can see how their lives have affected their health. You must understand the big picture,” she said.
Dr. Agoston said she does not judge her patients, but tries to determine what is important in their lives. “When I talk about lifestyle changes, such as smoking cessation, I must talk about why. If I can show how a lifestyle change will impact their loved ones, I may be able to guide them to better health,” she said.
As a non-invasive cardiologist, Dr. Agoston says she looks at hearts "without cutting. By listening and looking externally, I can get a pretty accurate diagnosis of what is going on with the heart.”
In a male-dominated specialty, she said some women prefer seeing another woman for help with their heart health. More than 70 percent of her practice consists of female patients.
Dr. Agoston regularly speaks to groups of women about misconceptions regarding heart disease. “One out of three women will die from heart disease. Many people think breast cancer is the leading cause of death in women. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States,” she said.
Women always put others first, Dr. Agoston said. Their health is usually the last thing on their minds, she said. “This is why I decided to create the Women’s Comprehensive Health Institute for UT Medicine San Antonio. A woman can get everything she needs done in one day.”
The comprehensive, multidisciplinary clinic addresses the complex and unique health care needs of women of all ages.
“We understand that women today are very busy. By offering them a one-stop shop, they can have all their annual health care assessments done in one place in one single day,” she said.
Based on a woman’s age and insurance benefits, the annual appointment may include a physical exam, dermatology exam, gynecology exam with Pap smear, mammogram, electrocardiogram, bone density exam and other health screenings.
Women interested in the clinic can call and talk to a registered nurse who can answer questions about services. The nurse provides each woman with a health questionnaire.
“We then review the completed questionnaire and decide – based on current evidence-based health guidelines – the necessary screenings needed by each woman,” Dr. Agoston said. “The women love this program. Our patients receive an itinerary for the day from the registered nurse. The Women’s Comprehensive Health Institute at the Medical Arts & Research Center is the only such clinic in San Antonio."