May 1, 2018
Nora Franceschini, MD, MPH, associate professor of epidemiology at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, was selected for the Trudy Bush Fellowship for Cardiovascular Disease Research in Women’s Health by the American Heart Association (AHA) Council on Epidemiology and Prevention.
Franceschini accepted the award on March 23 at the AHA annual meeting, where she presented her research on the association of the APOL1 gene and heart disease in African-American women participants of the Women’s Health Initiative.
The APOL1 gene has genetic variants that are specific to African ancestry, common in African-Americans and associated with chronic kidney disease. Franceschini studied the variants and their association with cardiovascular disease. She found that the gene is associated only with a type of congestive heart failure in which the amount of blood pumped from the heart’s left ventricle with each beat (the ejection fraction) is greater than 50 percent. The gene is not associated with coronary heart disease, stroke or mortality, differentiations that are important to know for individuals that carry these genotypes.
The award was established to honor the late Dr. Bush, former professor of epidemiology at the University of Maryland, whose expertise in menopause, osteoporosis and hormone replacement as a means of preventing heart disease in women brought her international acclaim.
Franceschini is a nephrology-trained physician and cardiovascular disease epidemiologist. Her research focuses on environmental and genetic determinants of hypertension, kidney and cardiovascular diseases in diverse and underrepresented minority populations who carry a high burden of chronic health conditions. The work includes gene discovery in American Indians, African-Americans and Hispanics/Latinos, trans-ethnic genetic studies and studies to characterize the social/environmental context in which genetic variants contribute to health conditions.
She joined the UNC Gillings School faculty in 2007.