Beth Kozel always wanted to be a doctor. She also loved scientific research, and when she realized that she could combine her two passions into a career as a physician-scientist, she never looked back. “I am grateful to the women who blazed the trail that allowed me to never consider my gender when it came to deciding on a career,” Kozel said. “I simply followed my passion.” Now she’s a trailblazer herself, one of a small and underrepresented number of women scientists. She has successfully melded her training in pediatrics with research in vascular biology and clinical genetics. Her work paid off: Kozel is currently director of the Laboratory of Vascular and Matrix Genetics at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Since 2015 she also has been an NIH Lasker Clinical Research Scholar, which allows her to focus more intensely on finding new and potentially lifesaving treatments for rare vascular diseases, or diseases of the blood vessels. Kozel studies Williams syndrome, a genetic disorder that causes developmental problems and affects many parts of the body, including the heart and blood vessels. She also studies supravalvular aortic stenosis, a type of heart defect that develops before birth and involves a narrowing of the aorta. Both disorders can be fatal and involve insufficient production of elastin, a protein that helps blood vessels and other body tissues stretch and recoil. Kozel’s lab explores the underlying genetic factors behind these disorders, as well as the epidemiological factors and environmental influences that affect disease severity. As a physician-scientist, she continues to multitask in her quest to understand and treat vascular diseases. In addition to her other duties, Kozel is also director of the Williams Syndrome Center at Washington University School of Medicine and St. Louis Children’s Hospital.
Learn more Beth Kozel, M.D., Ph.D.