News Release

Elizabeth M. McNally, M.D., Ph.D., FAHA, named the American Heart Association’s 2021 Distinguished Scientist in Basic Cardiovascular Sciences

American Heart Association Scientific Sessions 2021

Grant and Award Announcement

American Heart Association

Embargoed until 7 a.m. CT / 8 a.m. ET Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021

DALLAS, Nov. 3, 2021 – The American Heart Association will present its 2021 Distinguished Scientist in Basic Cardiovascular Sciences to Northwestern University’s Elizabeth M. McNally, M.D., Ph.D., FAHA. The Association designates Distinguished Scientist awards in several categories to members who have significantly advanced the understanding of cardiovascular, stroke or brain health. The six 2021 Distinguished Scientist awardees will be honored during the Association’s Scientific Sessions 2021, which will be fully virtual, Saturday, Nov. 13 through Monday, Nov. 15, 2021.

Dr. McNally was selected for this honor because of her multiple discoveries around the heredity of musculoskeletal and cardiovascular disorders. Her work impacts both scientific research and patient care. Additionally, Dr. McNally discovered new techniques for identifying and mapping genetic modifiers for inherited cardiovascular and myopathic disorders.

“Thank you and congratulations to Dr. Elizabeth McNally,” said Association President Donald M. Lloyd-Jones, M.D., Sc.M., FAHA. “Her work continues to help us develop a deeper understanding of how genetic mutations exert their effects on cardiovascular disease. She leads an incredible team that is using these genetic signals to take the critically important step of developing of new therapies, particularly for inherited cardiac conditions such as cardiomyopathies.”

Dr. McNally directs the Center for Genetic Medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago and is the Elizabeth J. Ward Professor of Genetic Medicine - a cardiologist with expertise in cardiovascular genetics. As a clinician, she developed one of the first cardiovascular genetics clinics in the nation, integrating genetic testing into cardiovascular care for patients and families.

Her research team at Northwestern discovers genetic causes of cardiac disorders and then works to define the mechanisms of how these genetic variants cause disease. By developing a deeper understanding as to how these genetic mutations exert their effects, she is using these genetic signals to drive the development of new treatments for cardiovascular disease. She has a special interest in neuromuscular genetic diseases like muscular dystrophy since these disorders often have accompanying cardiovascular complications.

“Genetic treatments are becoming a reality,” said Dr. McNally. “As a physician scientist, it’s amazing to see some of these treatments beginning to make it to patients. In Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, there are now multiple ongoing trials of gene therapy, and this will also be gene therapy that treats the heart. We also know about all the newly developing gene editing tools, and how these can be adapted to treat patients with genetic cardiovascular diseases and one day to also change genes to treat even more common forms of heart disease.”

Dr. McNally’s translational accomplishments have been recognized through an award from the Burroughs Wellcome Foundation and as a recipient a Distinguished Clinical Scientist Award from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Muscular Dystrophy Association and is currently the chair of the Association’s Council on Basic Cardiovascular Sciences. She is a past president of the American Society for Clinical Investigation and currently president of the Association of American Physicians. Earlier this year, she was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Additional Resources:

The Association receives funding primarily from individuals; foundations and corporations (including pharmaceutical, device manufacturers and other companies) also make donations and fund specific Association programs and events. The Association has strict policies to prevent these relationships from influencing the science content. Revenues from pharmaceutical and biotech companies, device manufacturers and health insurance providers and the Association’s overall financial information are available here

The American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2021 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 500 sessions focused on breakthrough cardiovascular basic, clinical and population science updates in a fully virtual experience Saturday, Nov. 13 through Monday, Nov. 15, 2021. Thousands of leading physicians, scientists, cardiologists, advanced practice nurses and allied health care professionals from around the world will convene virtually 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 2021 on social media via #AHA21.

About the American Heart Association

The American Heart Association is a leading force for a world of longer, healthier lives. With nearly a century of lifesaving work, the Dallas-based association is dedicated to ensuring equitable health for all. We are a trustworthy source empowering people to improve their heart health, brain health and well-being. We collaborate with numerous organizations and millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, advocate for stronger public health policies, and share lifesaving resources and information. Connect with us on heart.orgFacebookTwitter or by calling 1-800-AHA-USA1.


Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.