Embargoed until 7 a.m. CT / 8 a.m. ET Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2023

DALLAS, Nov. 1, 2023  The American Heart Association will present the 2023 Clinical Research Prize to Mary McGrae McDermott, M.D., FAHA, of Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. The Clinical Research Prize is awarded annually to physicians or scientists who are advancing clinical science in support of the Association’s mission.

Dr. McDermott has dedicated her career to advancing medical knowledge of peripheral artery disease (PAD). She will be recognized during the presidential session on Sunday, Nov. 12, 2023 at the Association’s Scientific Sessions 2023. The meeting, to be held in Philadelphia, Saturday, Nov. 11 through Monday, Nov. 13, is a premier global exchange of the latest scientific advancements, research and evidence-based clinical practice updates in cardiovascular science.

Dr. McDermott’s research work previously established that many people with PAD restrict their physical activity to avoid triggering leg symptoms and experience significantly faster declines in mobility compared to people who do not have PAD. Her research team determined that walking exercise that induces PAD-related leg symptoms is significantly more effective than walking exercise that does not induce PAD-related leg symptoms, and they also validated the six-minute walk as an effective outcome measure for people with PAD. PAD affects more than 12 million people in the U.S., and approximately 10% of people with PAD will experience limb-threatening ischemia, which increases the risk of amputation, disability and death.

“Dr. McDermott’s significant research contributions have shaped our understanding of PAD and are influencing the current treatment paradigm,” said the Association’s 2023-2024 volunteer President Joseph C. Wu, M.D., Ph.D., FAHA. “Through her continued research, I believe we will have more therapeutic options to help people with PAD remain physically active longer and with good quality of life.”

Dr. McDermott, a board-certified general internal medicine physician, is the Jeremiah Stamler Professor of Medicine and a professor of preventive medicine in epidemiology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. She is a staff physician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and sees patients as part of the Northwestern Medical Group. Dr. McDermott directs the Pilot/Exploratory Studies Core at Northwestern’s Claude D. Pepper Older Americans’ Independence Center. She is a deputy editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association, and she is a co-author of more than 320 published, peer-reviewed papers.

In addition to her faculty roles, Dr. McDermott is the principal investigator for multiple randomized clinical trials on PAD funded by grants from the National Institute on Aging and the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, both of which are divisions of the National Institutes of Health. Her research team’s ongoing randomized clinical trials are focused on reducing or preventing loss of mobility and improving mobility and quality of life in people with PAD. 

One clinical trial currently in progress compares the efficacy of home-based walking exercise programs with supervised exercise therapy for improving six-minute walk distance in people with PAD. Another clinical trial looks at the benefits of a weight loss program combined with an exercise program compared to an exercise program alone for people with PAD. While theoretically a weight loss plan would improve mobility for people with PAD who have overweight or obesity, intentional weight loss has never been evaluated for people with PAD, and it’s unknown if weight loss may influence PAD-related skeletal muscle loss, or whether it is feasible for PAD patients to lose weight while also engaging in home-based exercise. Additional trials include examining different therapies to reduce inflammation: 670 nm light therapy (red light therapy that may help to reduce inflammation) immediately prior to walking exercise; metformin for people with PAD who do not have Type 2 diabetes; the use of cocoa flavanols; and the use of fisetin.

“It’s a tremendous honor to have the work of my investigative team recognized and celebrated by the American Heart Association,” said Dr. McDermott. “This is a highlight of my career, and this award would not have been possible without my multi-disciplinary investigative team, comprised of dedicated and innovative scientists from across the United States. I am grateful to all the people with PAD who have participated in our observational studies and clinical trials over the past 25 years. This award is also possible because of the exercise physiologists, data analysts and other talented and hardworking research staff members who are integral members of our PAD research program. My entire team is dedicated to continuing our work studying the biologic pathways that lead to mobility loss and identifying effective and accessible therapies to improve mobility in all people with PAD.”

Dr. McDermott earned a bachelor’s degree in molecular biophysics and biochemistry from Yale University and a doctor of medicine from Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine. She completed an internal medicine residency at Northwestern University’s McGraw Medical Center and a fellowship in general internal medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.

Dr. McDermott was previously recognized by the Association as a distinguished scientist in 2017, with the Established Investigator Award in 2000, and the Distinguished Achievement Award from the Peripheral Vascular Disease Council in 2022. Additionally, her work was celebrated with the John M. Eisenberg National Award for Research Achievement from the Society of General Internal Medicine in 2021, and the Best PAD Research Award from the National Peripheral Arterial Disease Coalition in 2009. She is an elected member of the American Society of Clinical Investigation and of the Association of American Physicians.

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The American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2023 is a premier global exchange of the latest scientific advancements, research and evidence-based clinical practice updates in cardiovascular science for health care professionals worldwide. The three-day meeting will feature more than 700 sessions focused on breakthrough cardiovascular basic, clinical and population science updates Saturday, Nov. 11 through Monday, Nov. 13, 2023. Thousands of leading physicians, scientists, cardiologists, advanced practice nurses and allied health care professionals from around the world will convene in Philadelphia to participate in basic, clinical and population science presentations, discussions and curricula that can shape the future of cardiovascular science and medicine, including prevention and quality improvement. During the three-day meeting, attendees receive exclusive access to more than 4,000 original research presentations and can earn Continuing Medical Education (CME), Continuing Education (CE) or Maintenance of Certification (MOC) credits for educational sessions. Engage in Scientific Sessions 2023 on social media via #AHA23.


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