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Celebrate Research 2023: A look at cardiovascular research in BC

By Grace Jenkins

On April 20, partners and colleagues from around the life sciences sector gathered for an evening of informative lectures at Celebrate Research 2023. Leading medical professionals gave presentations on their research in their respective areas of cardiovascular health, the focus of this year’s event.

Hosted by Providence Research in collaboration with the Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute and the BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute, this hybrid event welcomed audience members both virtually and – for the first time since 2019 – in person at St. Paul’s Hospital. The night was moderated and presented by Dr. Darryl Knight, President of Providence Research and Vice President of Research and Academic Affairs at Providence Health Care.

Dr. Jason Andrade, a cardiac electrophysiologist at Vancouver General Hospital and an Associate Professor of Medicine at UBC, spoke about the benefits of early intervention in treating atrial fibrillation, a common type of arrhythmia that originates from the upper heart chambers.

There are two choices to control the symptoms of atrial fibrillation – medications, or a surgical procedure called catheter ablation. Dr. Andrade has led studies that found that treatment with catheter ablation resulted in greater quality of life, reduced health care utilization and hospitalization, and a similarly reduced rate of serious adverse events compared to treatment with medication.

Astrid de Souza, a clinical exercise physiologist at BC Children’s Hospital, gave her presentation titled “Looking Beyond Traditional Care in Pediatric Cardiology.”

She was involved in a project that sought to bridge communication challenges and improve engagement between adolescent cardiac patients and their health care providers through the teen patients’ preferred means of communication – text messaging.

Ninety five per cent of the patients found the project’s weekly “check-in” messages helpful, while eighty-nine per cent felt more engaged with their health care provider, and one hundred per cent would recommend the platform to others. Clinical research such as this has the power to change how care is delivered.

Dr. Jasmine Grewal, a Professor of Medicine at UBC and a member of the UBC Division of Cardiology, gave her talk on the care of the pregnant patient with cardiac disease.

Cardiovascular conditions are one of the leading causes of pregnancy related death, but for pregnant people with cardiovascular disease, there is often a lack of knowledge about risks and the need for care during and after pregnancy.

Cardiac-obstetrics is a growing field, and researchers are still learning about maternal mortality and high-risk cardiac conditions. Ongoing research focused on pregnancy and cardiovascular disease will lead to improvements in reducing risk and managing related complications.

Dr. Karin Humphries, Associate Professor Emeritus in UBC’s Faculty of Medicine and Program Head of the Cardiovascular Health program at CHÉOS, gave a presentation on how research into women’s heart health has advanced, and where it is going.

She began her talk with a striking fact: in the 1950s, the only patient information on heart attacks ‘for women’ was a brochure titled “How to Help Your Husband Recover from His Heart Attack.” Women have been excluded from clinical research in the past, and today there are still disparities in their level of representation, even though there are significant sex differences when it comes to health and clinical research that does not take that into account, is missing the bigger picture.

Women are more likely to have a different type of heart disease than men, and frequently present with different symptoms. Women produce less of the biomarker troponin, which is commonly measured to diagnose heart attacks. They may not meet the standard cut point for diagnosis when having a heart attack. Dr. Humphries is running a clinical trial evaluating the impact of using a lower female-specific troponin threshold on the diagnosis, treatment and outcomes of women.

While there have been significant advances in our understanding of sex differences and disparities in cardiovascular disease, there is still a ways to go in understanding the underlying social and biological factors driving sex differences and incorporating that knowledge into practices and processes.

Celebrate Research was a night of informative lectures on cardiovascular health that brought together the research community in B.C. We would like to extend our appreciation to the speakers for taking the time to share their knowledge with us.