Highlighting Karen A. Griffin, MD, FAHA, FASN, FACP – Fellow of the American Heart Association (FAHA)

The Fellow of the American Heart Association (FAHA) is open to researchers and medical professionals with an interest in cardiovascular disease and stroke. To be eligible for this fellowship, one must have up-to-date membership of either Premium Professional or Premium Professional Plus of one of the AHA councils for at least two years and must be affiliated with the Council in which the application will be submitted. FAHA is not only a reflection of stature, but also a record of valuable service to the AHA and the council.

Karen A. Griffin, MD, FAHA, FASN, FACPDr. Karen Griffin, who presented a seminar in April 2019 at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) Department of Physiology, has carried the FAHA designation for several years, but now serves as Chair of the Council on Hypertension. The Council’s mission is to “Foster excellence in hypertension research and education and to be a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier, lives.” Dr. Griffin was a Fellow of the American Society of Hypertension (ASH) for many years until recently when ASH became a part of the Council of Hypertension, which was an exciting venture for both Dr. Griffin and the Council. In 2016 she was nominated by Dr. Chris Wilcox, Chief of the Division of Nephrology and Hypertension at Georgetown University, and elected by the Council members as Chair-elect.  In that role she served as Chair of the program committee for the Council during which time a fourth concurrent session was added to the Hypertension Scientific Sessions that nicely dove tails additional clinical programming from ASH within the Council meeting.  This session, known as Concurrent D, consisting of Clinical Practice/Clinical Science and Primary Care tracks, was purposed to enhance translational advances from research to clinical practice as a means of improving patient care.

Dr. Griffin received her medical degree from Rush Medical College in Chicago, and subsequently completed her internal medicine residency and clinical/research fellowship in nephrology at Rush. She began her 28-year career at Loyola University Medical Center and the Edward Hines, Jr. VA.  and is currently a Professor of Medicine (Nephrology) at the Stritch School of Medicine, Loyola University and Renal Section Chief at the Edward Hines, Jr. V.A.  As a clinician, she is primarily focused on hypertension in kidney disease and has been Director of Loyola’s AHA Designated Comprehensive Hypertension Program.  Her research focus has been on the role of hypertension on the progression of chronic kidney disease and the impact of altered hemodynamics in the development and progression of diabetic and obesity-related nephropathies. She has received research funding from the NIH and Merit Review and published more than 80 articles, invited reviews and book chapters. Dr. Griffin has served as chair of the Joint Biomedical Laboratory Research and Development and Clinical Science Research and Development Services of the Scientific Merit Review Board in addition to chairing the VA Merit Review Renal Study Section and National Kidney Foundation of Illinois, Research committee. Additionally, she has served as a reviewer for several NIH study sections. She has also served as chair of the Professional and Public Education committee for the American Heart Hypertension Council and was a member of the American Society of Nephrology Hypertension Advisory Group.  Dr. Griffin is recipient of the American Medical Women’s Association Awards for Leadership and Academic Excellence, the Student’s Choice Award from the Department of Physiology at the Medical College of Wisconsin, and the Arthur C. Corcoran Memorial Lecturer of the Council on Hypertension.

Yet, despite her numerous accomplishments as a physician scientist, she holds fast to her belief in compartmentalization as a strategy for a balanced life.  As a physician scientist the demands on one’s time are challenging and necessitates often working extended hours but she has learned the art of multi-tasking and makes an effort to get off the grid to prevent burnout and have time for family and friends. Dr. Griffin encourages early career professionals to create a life outside of work, which translates to increased productivity when returning to work.  Dr. Griffin, for instance, enjoys bicycling, pilates, gardening, fishing, and horse racing. Do you have any similarities?

Dr. Griffin also urges early career professionals to set short term achievable goals for the week and to tackle each day with vigor and passion, completing each defined task and moving goals closer to completion. In addition, you should network and become part of FAHA, along with the Fellows In Training (FIT) program, in order to open doors and participate in AHA leadership. These steps will lead to career advancement as well as being a mark of achievement. Finally, she says to not get discouraged as we all face those hurdles along the way and the difference between those that succeed and those that don’t is an unwavering persistence, be it with grant submissions, publications, promotions, etc.

Likewise, as Chair (and Member-At-Large) of the Council on Hypertension, Dr. Griffin encourages membership in the Council because “it is all inclusive of basic and clinical research making it a hub for all specialties related to the field of hypertension research in addition to realizing the translation of such research to the evaluation and management of patient care.  The annual Council meeting is of a size that allows excellent opportunities to network and enjoy the fellowship of scientists and clinicians that form the hypertension community at-large in addition to seeing good friends acquired over the years of Council membership.” She encourages you to submit your abstracts for Hypertension Scientific Sessions 2019, held in New Orleans, Louisiana, from September 5-8, 2019 and hopes to see you there!