How did you get into research, why this area?
I am studying gender differences in cardiovascular disease.
I originally wanted to be a veterinarian, but after working in a hospital decided I enjoyed treating patients that could actually talk back to me and help me figure out what was going on with them.
I got into research in 1988 through an internship with Russ Moore when he was in Pennsylvania, then followed him out here in 1993.
I chose to study the heart because I became fascinated working on a pig heart in high school. I also thought I would only do research but found I really enjoy treating patients so now my work spans the full spectrum from basic to clinical science.
The part I enjoy most is identifying a problem in my clinical population and then figuring out how to address at multiple levels. When we understand the problem we go back to figuring out how best to apply it to patients.
Why is this important?
Women seemed to have more protection from heart attacks than men; but when this was really studied by looking at men and women under similar conditions, we found that women would have the heart muscle get thick, and men would go into heart failure.
Also, women do worse after the event, but women tend to have more reserve than men. So it takes a larger event and longer disease process to get women to manifest the heart attack.
So, even though there seems to be research to suggest that women have more protection in the heart muscle, the outcomes for women are much worse after an event. It’s not simple and that’s why I am studying this area.
What are your hopes and dreams for your research?
Brian looks primarily at how the heart muscle gets thicker... What are the unifying steps that make this happen and what happens at the tissue level to help prevent an event?
At a certain point in time the heart moves past its ability to adapt to stressors, but we don’t understand how it gets to the point of the heart muscle becoming too thick – and for women the critical difference is that the heart muscle gets thicker.
Men reach the threshold of a heart event sooner than women, which may be the reason that women seem to tolerate more. My ultimate goal is to figure out what the differences are in treating men and women, and use this in a clinical population to have a similar outcome for prevention and treatment.
What can we do to report on your work in a way that can be understood and valued by the general public?
We need to do this not only for the community, but for our cadre of researchers so they can see fundamentally what everyone is doing. And how it impacts everyone elses work.
This speaks to having a ‘research summit’ annually for all our researchers to share information and findings that we can pass onto the public.