This guest blog is from Jean McSweeney, RN, PhD, FAHA, FAAN. She is a past chair of the AHA Central Arkansas Board of Directors and received the Healthcare Volunteer of the Year award.
Hope for the future — and questions about what is to come — often lead to change. In the scientific world, those things lead to research.
Scientific research is at the core of the American Heart Association’s work. The AHA has invested more than $4.5 billion in research, making it the largest private, not-for-profit funder of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular research.
Last year alone, the AHA invested nearly $200 million to fund over 800 new awardees. It’s exciting to think about the advances that could result from those studies. The belief in the possibility of a world without heart disease and stroke drives us to relentlessly seek solutions.
Questions around women and cardiovascular disease have led much of my work. Women were reporting different symptoms from men, but also seemed to experience trouble receiving a diagnosis, even a heart attack diagnosis. In 2004, my research team published the first major study of women’s symptoms.
Scientific Sessions highlight new research
Every fall, researchers from around the globe gather for the AHA’s Scientific Sessions. The conference is the world’s largest gathering of cardiovascular scientists, and it’s where cutting-edge studies that could lead to critical advances in heart disease and stroke are shared.
I’ve had the pleasure of attending Scientific Sessions every year since 2000 and have had the honor of presenting on topics including research on women and heart disease, trends in women’s treatment outcomes, and AHA funding for all levels of research from novice to expert.
An increasing area of interest is CRISPR, a tool that can edit the structure of DNA. While it’s fascinating to think about how far research has come, the topic of editing a person’s genes has many ethical questions surrounding it.
Looking to the future
I’m excited when I think of the future of our field. I think there will be more developments in personalized approaches to treatment, and I’m hopeful that we’ll make strides in preventing coronary heart disease. To make those advances, I believe our work must change. We need to include more minorities in our research so our findings apply equally to all people. And with rising rates in childhood obesity and high blood pressure, I also hope prevention will take center stage.
Having a great team makes all the difference! That’s why I push those I work with to network and keep working with the AHA.
I also encourage young people to pursue the field of science and research. I would love to tell them not to be afraid but encouraged. We need people to ask questions and push for answers. I’d tell students to listen, learn and focus on why the American Heart Association is so deeply committed to research.
Jean McSweeney, PhD, RN, FAHA, FAAN, is a Professor and Associate Dean of Research at University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.