FA… wha? Oh… FAHA! Becoming a Fellow of the American Heart Association (FAHA)

Curious about what a Fellow of the American Heart Association (FAHA) was, I attended the “Journey to becoming FAHA” panel discussion this afternoon to learn more from Dr. Annet Kirabo (Vanderbilt University), Dr. Nasrien Ibrahim (Massachusetts General Hospital), Dr. Swapnil Hiremath (Ottawa Hospital Research Institute), and Dr. Antonio Cabrera (University of Utah). Collectively, this panel covered many topics for the FAHA curious. Below are some of the major questions answered.

What is a FAHA and how do I become one?

Broadly speaking, a Fellow of the American Heart Association (FAHA) is a physician, scientist, nurse, or other healthcare professionals that has made sustained contributions to the field of cardiovascular disease and/or stroke. General FAHA requirements include a history of AHA membership (i.e.being an AHA partner for at least two years), holding a Premium Professional or Premium Professional Plus membership, possessing an affiliation with one of the 16 AHA Scientific Councils, and a letter of recommendation from an existing FAHA member. However, each Scientific Council has an additional set of FAHA criteria that must be met for a successful application, so do your research and make sure you qualify. Each year, there are two FAHA application due dates, meaning there are many opportunities to apply. To learn more, check out the American Heart Association (AHA) website: https://professional.heart.org/en/partners/fellow-of-aha.

What are the benefits of becoming a FAHA?
As stated on the AHA website, the many benefits of becoming a FAHA include free online access to AHA journals, priority registration for AHA Scientific Sessions, and reduced registration fees to AHA meetings. However, all of the panelists highlighted the additional networking benefits of being a FAHA that have helped them in their early careers. Dr. Cabrera specifically noted that the AHA is an excellent source of role models and mentors for both scientists and clinicians. In addition, Dr. Ibrahim noted that being a FAHA has been helpful for her research, with networking ultimately resulting in more publication and speaking opportunities.

How can I showcase my commitment to the AHA? What kinds of AHA service opportunities are there?
To successfully become a FAHA means showing sustained commitment and service to the AHA. Thankfully, the AHA makes this easy. As Dr. Kirabo noted, on the AHA website you can fill out the Science Volunteer Form to receive emails with volunteer opportunities. In addition, Dr. Ibrahim promoted the AHA Early Career and FIT Blogging Program, which initially allowed her to amplify her voice in the cardiovascular health and clinical cardiology fields.

If I am not a researcher, does a lack of published paper prevent you from becoming a FAHA?    

Depending on the Scientific Council you are applying to, a lack of publications can play a role. However, Dr. Cabrera noted that there is a great deal of variation in assessing productivity and scholarship and that the AHA tries to create opportunities for teachers and clinicians (not only research scientists) by assessing achievement using criteria beyond publications.

If I applied but was not approved to be a FAHA the first time, what should I do? How can I improve my chances?
Check the criteria for becoming a FAHA. Check with a FAHA on your Scientific Council and determine where the gap is and how it can be filled. Most importantly, don’t give up — try again!

Do you have any last pieces of advice for FAHA applicants?

Use your two years of required AHA membership to build up your AHA service — most importantly, commit this service to something you are genuinely interested in. Get a solid personalized letter of recommendation from an existing FAHA member for your application. Lastly, don’t hesitate, just do it.


Find out more about FAHA: https://professional.heart.org/en/partners/fellow-of-aha

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