Internal Medicine

Faculty highlight – Dr. Phoebe Ashley, Clerkship Director

Faculty highlight – Dr. Phoebe Ashley, Clerkship Director
By Saher Randhawa, Program Manager
Office of Educational Affairs, Department of Internal Medicine


Dr. Phoebe AshleyDr. Phoebe Ashley is a board-certified cardiologist with VCU’s Pauley Heart Center.  She focuses on Women’s Cardiovascular Medicine, Preventative Cardiovascular Medicine and health literacy.  She has found a new passion recently for medical education and was appointed in November of 2019 as the Department Clerkship Director. 

“I live the art of medicine. The way we speak with our patients and touch them shares an intimacy with them not found in many other professions. The way one holds their stethoscope speaks volumes to a patient. The laying on of hands is often a therapeutic measure independent of any medication or test,” says Dr. Ashley.

M3 clerkship student, Megan Barrett states, “Dr. Ashley is kind, clinically astute, and incredibly invested in her students. She regularly goes out of her way to create learning opportunities for her students and is also a strong advocate for women in medicine. She has been both a professional mentor to me, as a student interested in pursuing a career in Cardiology, and a personal mentor, cultivating an appreciation for being a fellow woman in medicine.”

M3 clerkship student, James Foster Howick states, “I am amazed at Dr. Ashley’s clinical teaching. During didactics, she taught us tips on properly hearing an S3 heart sound, what characterizes pulmonary hypertension in a young kid, and how to estimate ejection fraction through auscultation and palpation of the carotid artery. I still have so much to learn, but these clinical tips and tricks were amazing to me and played a role in my keen interest in cardiology.”

Dr. Ashley states, “working with the students has brought me the greatest joy while at VCU. I have many wonderful stories of interactions with students, students and patients, and students and their families. Having a patient ask for Hermione from the popular Harry Potter series on rounds and recognizing that the patient’s recognition of the student as Hermione was spot on. Like Hermione, the student was wicked smart, diligent, spunky, caring, and a fierce friend. Another patient with “the ability to see into your soul”, very accurately assessed each student on bedside rounds calming the anxiety of an outstanding, albeit nervous young man and suggesting that a second, pompous young man should seek a new profession. Our patients have much to teach us and our learners.”

Prior to relocating to Virginia, Dr. Ashley was the Medical Director of the Cardiovascular Wellness and Rehabilitation Program within the Oregon Heart and Vascular Institute at Sacred Heart Medical Center in Eugene, OR.

Dr. Ashley states, “I fell in love with cardiovascular medicine in 8th grade when my father, gave a guest lecture on the cardiac and pulmonary systems. I was hooked!”

A passionate educator, she works in a variety of venues to promote education and prevention of cardiovascular disease. 

Dr. Ashley“I work diligently on the power of observation, nuance, and physical exam finesse which I try to impart to the students. To be a good bedside diagnostician, one must use all his/her senses to glean from the patient the story and illustrations presented, it unfolds if you are paying attention,” states Dr. Ashley.

M3 Clerkship student, Benjamin Taylor Mautner states, “As a cardiologist, Dr. Ashley listens to heart sounds with her stethoscope during every patient encounter. This is one of the simpler physical exam maneuvers that she performs although interpretation of what she hears is quite complex. With one hand on the stethoscope, she always places the other on her patient’s shoulder. While this doesn’t necessarily serve a diagnostic function, it is a gesture of comfort, support, and extra attention that means a great deal to a patient.”

In collaboration with the American Heart Association, Dr. Ashley has worked to promote awareness and empower women regarding their heart health.

“My mother was an amazing nurse from whom I learned the joy of learning and putting people at ease. My mother and father had a private practice in a small town in Northern California. Often the patients would share something with my mother, hesitant to tell “the doctor”, but as my parents passed in the hall, the message was covertly delivered to “the doctor” and the issues appropriately addressed. They made an excellent team! For years, my younger sister and I were the office janitors, discovering the world of medicine literally from the ground up,” says Dr. Ashley.