News Release

American College of Cardiology honors women’s heart disease pioneer

Noel Bairey Merz, MD, Director of the Barbra Streisand Women’s Heart Center at the Smidt Heart Institute, to receive Master of the ACC Award on March 6 during Annual Scientific Session

Grant and Award Announcement

Cedars-Sinai Medical Center

Noel Bairey Merz, MD, professor of cardiology and the director of the Barbra Streisand Women’s Heart Center in the Smidt Heart Institute, will receive the 2023 Master of the ACC Award from the American College of Cardiology (ACC) in honor of her pioneering contributions to the cardiovascular profession.

She will be recognized during the ACC’s Annual Scientific Session on Monday, March 6, in New Orleans.

The Master of the ACC Award recognizes and honors ACC Fellows who have served with distinction, consistently contributing to the goals and programs of the college and providing leadership in important college activities.   

“It is an honor to recognize Dr. Noel Bairey Merz with the Master of the ACC Award,” said ACC President Edward T.A. Fry, MD. “She has made exceptional contributions to the field of cardiovascular medicine, helping to further the ACC’s mission to transform cardiovascular care and improve heart health.”

Bairey Merz has devoted her career to cardiovascular clinical care and research, with an emphasis on heart disease in women, preventive cardiology, coronary physiology/pathophysiology and advanced cardiac imaging.

In fact, Eduardo Marbán, MD, PhD, executive director of the Smidt Heart Institute, said Bairey Merz “has single-handedly established Cedars-Sinai as the world’s leading center in women’s heart disease.”

Christine Albert, MD, MPH, professor, chair of the Department of Cardiology and the Lee and Harold Kapelovitz Distinguished Chair in Cardiology at the Smidt Heart Institute, said the award “is a testament to Dr. Bairey Merz’s vast accomplishments within our field of cardiology, both as a leader who has blazed a trail, serving as a role model for generations of women and men who aspire to leadership in academic cardiology, and as a pioneer in the treatment and prevention of heart disease in women. Our entire team is very proud that she was selected to receive this distinguished award. It is much deserved.”

Bairey Merz joined the Cedars-Sinai Department of Cardiology in 1985, quickly working to better understand and prevent cardiovascular disease in women—clinically and in the laboratory.

She also played a major role in proving that women’s heart attack symptoms often differed from men’s. For example, women are more likely to experience crushing fatigue, jaw pain and nausea as heart attack symptoms, while men are more likely to experience tingling down the left arm and chest pain. Since those symptom differences emerged, Bairey Merz also has worked to educate women on how to recognize female-pattern heart disease symptoms. 

Bairey Merz currently leads the WARRIOR multicenter clinical trial, which she designed. The trial is testing whether standard therapy used for obstructive coronary artery disease is effective for women with chest pain and no obstructions.

Since 1996, Bairey-Merz also has been principal investigator of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute-sponsored Women’s Ischemia Syndrome Evaluation (WISE) multicenter clinical trial, studying detection and assessment of heart artery disorders in women using noninvasive methods.

Other areas of her breakthrough research include estrogen deficiency and cardiovascular disease in premenopausal women, cardiac autonomic function in women with microvascular coronary dysfunction, and exploring the power of female stem cells to regenerate healthy heart muscle after a heart attack.

Bairey Merz also has served as principal investigator on several National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health-sponsored surrogate outcome clinical trials testing preventive cardiology interventions on outcomes, ranging from advanced imaging to cardiovascular pathophysiology and the cardiac autonomic nervous system.

She has published more than 450 peer-reviewed articles in the New England Journal of MedicineJournal of the American Medical Association, CirculationJournal of the American College of Cardiology, International Journal of Cardiology and the Journal of Women's Health, among others.

“My mission is to ensure the healthiest possible cardiovascular outcomes for every patient, and achieving equality in care is especially vital, as heart conditions and risk factors for cardiac disease often present differently in women than men,” said Bairey Merz, the Irwin and Sheila Allen Chair in Women’s Heart Research. “It means a great deal to receive this award from the ACC for this work—I am deeply honored, as well as committed to continuing to improve heart health and care for our patients.”

The ACC’s Annual Scientific Session brings together cardiologists and cardiovascular specialists from around the world to share the newest discoveries in treatment and prevention. Bairey Merz will lead various women’s heart health-focused presentations this year, including “Expand Your Differential: Recognizing the Unique Chest Pain Presentations in Women.” On Saturday, March 4, she will present “Beyond the Obstruction: Testing and Treatment Options in INOCA and MINOCA.” On Monday, March 6, she will lead a session on prevention, in addition to receiving the 2023 Master of the ACC Award.

The Smidt Heart Institute ranked #1 in California and #3 in the nation for Cardiology & Heart Surgery in U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Hospitals 2022-23.”

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