Johns Hopkins researchers recognized for contributions to cardiovascular science, medicine at 2022 Scientific Sessions

The American Heart Association presented awards to four individuals associated with the Johns Hopkins University and its medical system at the Association’s 2022 Scientific Sessions. Scientific Sessions is a premier global exchange of the latest scientific advancements, research and evidence-based clinical practice updates in cardiovascular science. The meeting was held in-person in Chicago and virtually Nov. 5 through Nov. 7.

Dr. Lisa Cooper, Distinguished Scientist Award

Dr. Lisa Cooper, the director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Equity and professor at the Johns Hopkins University, has spent her career studying how racism and socioeconomic factors shape patient care, and how health systems can work with communities to improve the health of populations with complex medical and social needs.

She was recognized at the 2022 Scientific Sessions with a Distinguished Scientists award for her research and contributions in this field.

Her work as a researcher in this area has majorly influenced the communication methods that healthcare professional use when interacting with patients, and has influenced how patients are engaged as active members of their healthcare teams.

Dr. Cooper conducts clinical trials that use community-based approaches to improve patient outcomes and increase health equity for patients with heart disease and stroke, and she’s been called on to apply her expertise in health communications and community-based approaches to the COVID-19 pandemic on a national level.

“I’m honored to receive one of the 2022 Distinguished Scientist Awards from the American Heart Association for my contributions to reducing cardiovascular disparities for communities that experience a disparate impact of diseases like heart disease and stroke,” Cooper said. “We work together on spreading the science so that it can be used to really change clinical practice and improve the lives of people from marginalized communities.

Dr. David Kass, Distinguished Scientist Award

Dr. David Kass, a professor of medicine, bioengineering, and pharmacology at Johns Hopkins University, has spent his nearly four-decade career studying the mechanisms of heart failure to determine better ways to treat it. At the 2022 Scientific Sessions conference, Dr. Kass was recognized with a Distinguished Scientists award for his work.

“I’m very honored to be the recipient of the Distinguished Scientist award by the AHA really recognizing my research work that spans this roughly 40-year period,” he said.

Kass credited the American Heart Association with helping to launch his career by funding research when he was a young investigator, particularly when other funding sources like the National Institutes of Health would not.

“Throughout my career, the role the American Heart Association has played has been substantial,” Kass said. “Back when I first started as a very young investigator, I was given one of their established investigator awards and that really helped sort of launch a career that that followed.”

More recently, he recalled research studying Heart Failure Preserved Ejection Fraction in women, funded through the AHA that was able to “integrate epidemiologists and clinical researchers with basic researchers, all teamed together to address a particular prominent clinical problem,” he said.

“For Hopkins, it has really turned out to be this extraordinary moment that really solidified efforts here, both on the clinical and basic research side. It’s led once again to a lot of subsequent support for an ongoing program, and it’s another example of the kind of initiatives that American Heart Association does that are harder to do, I think, in other established research supporting systems.”

Dr. Jennifer Lawton, Council on Cardiovascular Surgery and Anesthesia’s Distinguished Achievement Award

Dr. Jennifer Lawton, the Chief of Cardiac Surgery at Johns Hopkins and longtime member of the American Heart Association’s Council on Cardiovascular Surgery and Anesthesia, was presented with the scientific council’s Distinguished Achievement Award.

This award is presented every three years during the CVSA Council Meeting and Awards Dinner at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions, and recognizes individuals who have made major contributions to the affairs of a scientific council over a continuing period, and who have made substantial professional contributions to the field represented by the council.

“We have a broad, diverse council which includes representatives from multiple national and international committees to cover the whole gamut of cardiovascular disease as surgeons and as anesthesiologists as well as nursing members, lay and other members that help guide our decisions,” Lawton said. “I am deeply honored and humbled to receive the council’s Distinguished Achievement Award.”

Lawton has been involved with the CVSA Council for about a dozen years, including serving as its chair and vice chair, as part of the grant review study section, and the councils nominating committee. Her work with the American Heart Association began when she was a junior faculty member in St. Louis, prior to coming to Johns Hopkins, as a member of the volunteer board there, giving educational talks to the lay public, and as a member of the Surgery Study Section for AHA prior to joining the CVSA Council, and other Association committees.

Lawton was the lead author of the American Heart Association/American College of Cardiology/Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions 2021 Guidelines for Coronary Vascularization, calling it one of her proudest moments working with the Association.

“I have found volunteering for the American Heart Association to be fun, exciting and tremendously rewarding,” Lawton, who also moderated a discussion, “How Volunteering with the AHA has Advanced My Career” during Scientific Sessions.

Dr. Myron “Mike” Weisfeldt, Eugene Braunwald Academic Mentorship Award

Dr. Myron “Mike” L. Weisfeldt, professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, who has held numerous volunteer roles with the American Heart Association, including serving as its president in 1989-1990, has shown a dedication to improving the field of cardiology, advocating for increased diversity in the field and inspiring others to become leaders in the field.

His legacy of mentorship, inclusion and diversity led to the American Heart Association presenting Weisfeldt with the Eugene Braunwald Academic Mentorship Award.

“There are a lot of awards for research, achievement and for leadership, but nationally there are very few awards for mentoring,” Weisfeldt said. “But mentoring is, I think, very important, and the idea that Gene Braunwald is the person for whom this award is dedicated is extremely meaningful to me.

“There are so many important award winners, Nobel Prize Winners, … who are funded early by the American Heart Association, so as an association, the AHA has been a remarkable leader in the development of young people and the Braunwald award is part of the commitment to this tradition,” he added.

Weisfeldt’s efforts during his tenure leading Johns Hopkins’ department of medicine resulted in a significant increase in the number of residents, fellows and faculty from under-represented races and ethnicities. As a mentor, he encourages an equity-first approach to medicine, community health and science. His leadership was recognized with the University’s 2019 Dean’s Distinguished Mentoring Award.