Headshot of Gina Wei, M.D., M.P.H.
NHLBI Celebrates Women Scientists

Gina Wei, M.D., M.P.H.


When Gina Wei, M.D., M.P.H., moved from Taiwan to Los Angeles when she was just 10 years old, she could neither speak nor write English. “I looked different and I felt different,” she said. “I was one of a few Asian students in my school, and finding my way was hard, even though I loved school.” Little did she know that those formative experiences – learning about new people and cultures and staying resilient – would help prepare her for her current role guiding some of the most important population health studies in the United States.

As director of the Prevention and Population Sciences Program in the Division of Cardiovascular Sciences (DCVS) at NHLBI, Wei supports a diverse portfolio of studies that follow the health of large groups of people over time. They include the Jackson Heart Study, Hispanic Community Health Study, the Women’s Health Initiative, and the iconic Framingham Heart Study. Under her leadership, two new study cohorts were recently added: the Risk Underlying Rural Areas Longitudinal (RURAL) Cohort Study and the Epidemiological Cohort Study among Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (AsA-NHPI).

“It’s important to have cohort studies that are diverse and inclusive, so that the findings can be relevant to a wide range of people,” Wei said. “Different groups have different experiences and exposures to risk factors, and how our bodies react to them can differ.”

Her post-secondary education brought these ideas home. Wei earned her undergraduate degree at UCLA, where she studied biochemistry, and then went on to medical school at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. It was during her internal medicine residency that she developed a strong interest in public health research, particularly women’s health. 

Now, to her delight, Wei also serves as the senior scientific advisor on Women’s Health at NHLBI, where she is able to focus on improving maternal health and closing the maternal health equity gap in the United States. Wei said the fact that Black women are two to three times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than white women is flatly “unacceptable,” and she’s fiercely passionate about doing something about it.

Wearing so many hats means that Wei is involved in everything from supervising staff to launching new research initiatives. Doing it all successfully, she said, requires that she be strategic and intentional in her work and also mindful of cultivating positive relationships among her staff and colleagues so they can work as a team. “I’m not in this alone,” Wei said.

In thinking this way, Wei’s immigrant experience is never too far out of mind. “It taught me to appreciate different experiences,” she said, “not just my own but in the lives of others.”

For those on their own career paths, Wei’s advice is simple: “Stop and celebrate your successes, whatever milestone it is. And appreciate the people who have supported you.”

Next Post

There are no Next Posts to display.