Focusing on Gender, Race and Ethnicity

If you are an African, Hispanic or Native American woman, your risks and challenge are greater than your Caucasian counterparts, highlighting the critical need to focus on women of color.

Thanks to community support, physicians and researchers have made progress over the last decade and the UA Sarver Heart Center has added gender and ethnic differences in heart disease as a research focus. The energy and commitment of the Minority Outreach Program is keeping high-risk groups in the forefront.

“Our goal is to create an endowment that will fund several awards each year to advance promising research focused on heart-health issues that affect women from ethnically diverse backgrounds,” says Wanda Moore, chair of the Minority Outreach Program.

Understanding the relationships between inflammation and cardiovascular disease is a
focus for Leslie Ritter, PhD, RN, who serves as the William M. Feinberg, MD, Endowed
in Stroke Research at the UA Sarver Heart Center. Dr. Ritter’s research considers how inflammation and factors such as diabetes, aging and ethnicity are related. She currently is mentoring a doctoral student, Theresa Wadas, RN, MSN, in a study to understand the relationships among inflammatory risk factors in African Americans with stroke. This research is supported by the Women of Color Community Award from the Community Coalition for Heart Health Education for Women of Color (Minority Outreach Program).

In another study supported in part by the Minority Outreach Program, Margaret Briehl, PhD, is leading a research team that is studying ways to protect the heart from cancer therapy. Advances in cancer treatment have led to many cures, but the side effects often bring about another battle—heart disease, specifically heart failure that is caused by cardiotoxicity. “Unfortunately, the same chemicals that destroy cancer cell growth also can destroy heart cells,” says Dr. Briehl. Cardiotoxicity from chemotherapy is more likely to affect women, especially African-American women, people at extremes of age (children and the elderly) and people with high blood pressure, diabetes and pre-existing heart disease, says Dr. Briehl. ♥