In honor of Women’s History Month, the NHLBI will celebrate the accomplishments of women biomedical scientists who have played and are playing key roles in fighting heart, lung, blood, and sleep-related disorders. Check back throughout the month for additions to this impressive list:
Sonia Nielles-Vallespin, Ph.D.
Dr. Nielles-Vallespin is a staff scientist in the Advanced Cardiovascular Imaging Group at NHLBI. She developed and validated a new magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technique that provides unprecedented details of heart muscle structure and function. The development has already lead to new insights into heart diseases such as dilated cardiomyopathy, a condition in which the heart becomes enlarged and can fail. The new MRI method has also allowed new ways to examine heart function in patients with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a condition where some parts of the heart grow abnormally thick. She is the recipient of the 2017 Orloff Award from NHLBI, which recognizes outstanding achievements in science and the development of novel research tools by researchers within NHLBI’s Division of Intramural Research.
Nanette Kass Wenger, M.D.
Dr. Wenger is Professor of Medicine (Emeritus) in the Division of Cardiology at the Emory University School of Medicine and a consultant to the Emory Heart and Vascular Center. An acclaimed cardiologist and researcher, she is one of the first to recognize that heart disease affects women and is not just a ‘man’s disease.’ Her pioneering research has helped reduce women’s disability and death from cardiovascular disease. Dr. Wenger chaired the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Conference on Cardiovascular Health and Disease in Women. She has authored or coauthored over 1,600 scientific and review articles and book chapters.
Read Dr. Wenger’s profile.
Jerica Berge, Ph.D.
In 2010, Dr. Jerica Berge was an NHLBI’s early stage investigator (ESI). Today, she is a tenured associate professor at the University of Minnesota Department of Family Medicine and Community Health with multiple NIH-funded grants (R03, R21, R56, R01). The fast-moving pace of her career tracks the progress of her research contributions in the areas of childhood obesity and community and family health. As a researcher and behavioral medicine clinician, her work aims to leverage family relationships in the prevention and treatment of childhood and adolescent obesity using innovative mixed-methodologies such as ecological momentary assessment (EMA) and video-recorded observations. Dr. Berge codirects the Healthy Eating and Activity across the Lifespan (HEAL) center, which focuses on integration across research, clinical practice, policy, and community resources to inspire a culture of health. Family Fortress is the umbrella name of Dr. Berge’s research. “Family Fortress operates under the premise that the family is the basic unit of society and the leverage point for promoting health,” Dr. Berge said. “By using a strengths-based approach to empower families, in partnership with health care systems, schools, and the community we can work as a team in addressing ‘our collective health’.”
Read Dr. Jerica Berge’s profile.
Susan Redline, M.D., M.P.H.
Dr. Redline is Peter C. Farrell Professor of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Director of the Sleep Medicine Epidemiology Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. A prolific investigator, Dr. Redline is a leading authority in describing the medical risks associated with untreated sleep apnea and the contribution of genetic risk factors to this disorder. Dr. Redline leads the study of sleep apnea in several NHLBI funded community studies and multi-site clinical trials. She pioneered the development of web-based resources and tools enabling the exchange and analysis of sleep research data among biomedical researchers worldwide as well as resources to support patient engagement in research. An important new undertaking is to understand why children in low socioeconomic communities do not appear to benefit from surgical treatment of sleep apnea (adenotonsillectomy).
Read Dr. Redline's profile.
C. Noel Bairey Merz, M.D.
Dr. C. Noel Bairey Merz is director of the Women's Heart Center at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute, where she is a professor of medicine. She is a pioneer in the study of women’s heart health and preventive cardiology. Dr. Bairey Merz was a principal investigator in the NHLBI-sponsored Women’s Ischemia Syndrome Evaluation (WISE) initiative, an ongoing study that has provided new insights into understanding heart disease in women. Among its findings to date: the discovery that women with evidence of heart disease often have small artery dysfunction, which can cause their condition to be overlooked and undiagnosed using male-standard testing. Dr. Bairey Merz is a strong advocate for correcting gender inequality in research and for educating women on how to recognize heart disease symptoms.
Read Dr. Bairey Merz’s profile.
Lisa A. Cooper, M.D., M.P.H.
Dr. Lisa Cooper is an internationally recognized health services researcher and a professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the Bloomberg School of Public Health. A 2007 MacArthur Fellow, she is best known for pioneering research to improve doctor-patient communication for socially and culturally diverse groups and for developing innovative interventions to overcome racial and ethnic disparities in healthcare. Dr. Cooper is the principal investigator of an NHLBI-funded research and training program called The Johns Hopkins Center to Eliminate Cardiovascular Disparities, whose goal is to reduce the impact of heart health disparities among vulnerable populations in Maryland by strengthening ties among researchers, healthcare providers, community members, and policy-makers. The Center also translates research into practice, policy changes, and community health benefits.
Read Dr. Cooper’s profile.
Melina R. Kibbe, M.D.
Dr. Melina Kibbe is a practicing vascular surgeon and the Zack D. Owens Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Surgery at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her research, supported in part by NHLBI, focuses on nitric oxide (NO) vascular biology and developing novel, innovative NO-based therapies for patients with vascular disease. Her research was recognized with the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers in 2009. Her bibliography includes over 200 peer-reviewed manuscripts. In addition, Dr. Kibbe is a strong advocate for gender equality in biomedical research. She is currently Editor-in-Chief of JAMA Surgery, and was recently elected into the American Society for Clinical Investigation and the National Academy of Medicine.
Read Dr. Kibbe’s profile.
Cynthia Dunbar, M.D.
Dr. Cynthia Dunbar is a senior investigator in the Molecular Hematopoiesis Section of NHLBI. Her basic laboratory research on stem cells led to a clinical trial of the drug eltrombopag for the treatment of patients with severe aplastic anemia, a rare and potentially fatal blood disorder in which the body’s bone marrow fails to make enough new blood cells. The trial led to the first FDA-approved drug for treating aplastic anemia in more than 30 years. In addition to her research, she is also NHLBI’s Women Scientists Advisor, where she mentors other scientists at the Institute and works on improving the pipeline of women principal investigators.
Read Dr. Dunbar's profile.
Hannah Valantine, M.D.
Dr. Hannah Valantine is a senior investigator in the Laboratory of Transplantation Genomics at NHLBI. She is pioneering the use of non-invasive DNA tests to detect early signs of heart- and lung-transplant rejection. In addition to having the potential to save lives, these genomic tests could help reduce the amount of anti-rejection medicine needed by patients, potentially leading to fewer side effects. In 2014, Valantine was appointed as NIH’s first Chief Officer for Scientific Workforce Diversity to promote diversity in the biomedical research workforce.
Read Dr. Valentine's profile.
Nihal Altan-Bonnet, Ph.D.
Dr. Nihal Altan-Bonnet is an investigator in the Laboratory of Host-Pathogen Dynamics at NHLBI. She discovered that disease-causing viruses spread between cells as groups within a membrane-enclosed sac and arrive together at the cells they infect. The finding changed a central tenet of virology that viruses behave as independent infectious agents. The discovery could lead to new ways to treat or prevent viral infections that are behind a number of diseases, including myocarditis (heart inflammation) and the common cold.
Read Dr. Altan-Bonnet's profile.