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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

“The views, opinions and positions expressed within this blog are those of the author(s) alone and do not represent those of the American Heart Association. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. The copyright of this content belongs to the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them. The Early Career Voice blog is not intended to provide medical advice or treatment. Only your healthcare provider can provide that. The American Heart Association recommends that you consult your healthcare provider regarding your personal health matters. If you think you are having a heart attack, stroke or another emergency, please call 911 immediately.”

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Greatness in Grant Writing

As a first time AHA Scientific Session attendee, I was thrilled with the diversity of topics covered in today’s program. As I learned about topics ranging from structural racism in science and healthcare to the difficulty associated with diagnosing hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, I had the opportunity to see some of the major challenges that prevail in cardiovascular health and was in awe of the advances being made to address them.

As a researcher constantly striving to write better grants and fellowships, I would highly recommend checking out the recording of “My first grant writing breakthrough — tips and tricks for early career researchers” by Lifestyle Council’s Early Career Committee. In this Zoom hosted chat, Dr. Alain Bertoni (Wake Forest School of Medicine), Dr. Norrina Allen (Northwestern University), and Dr. Kara Whitaker (University of Iowa) shared their secrets for grant writing success. Below are a few points that I took away with me.

Give yourself time to write
I was surprised to learn that some of the panelists had spent years working on a research idea and crafting it into a successful R01 grant. While most of us don’t have the luxury of years to write a grant, the panelists made it clear that writing a solid specific aims page (the backbone of any NIH grant) is a long process that requires many drafts and critical feedback from close colleagues. Thus, a theme repeated throughout the panel was time. Give yourself a lot of time to write and start your grant writing process as early as possible.

Surround yourself with people that are smarter than you are

Don’t be shy, reach out to others for help. A constant theme of this session was the sense that our peers are our strongest asset. As the grant will be read by experts in the field, the panelists emphasized that it is likewise important to get feedback from knowledgeable peers to ensure that the science is exciting, the approach is solid, and that the ideas you are presenting are fundable.

Read other grants and try to gain the first-hand experience with the NIH peer review process

In a final tips takeaway, the panelists noted that one of the best ways new faculty members can learn how to write excellent grants is to expose themselves to excellent grants. This can be achieved through reading successful grants written by peers. Alternatively, the NIH has an Early Career Reviewer Program that allows early-career scientists to participate in the NIH peer review process to help them understand how grants are evaluated.

 

“The views, opinions and positions expressed within this blog are those of the author(s) alone and do not represent those of the American Heart Association. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. The copyright of this content belongs to the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them. The Early Career Voice blog is not intended to provide medical advice or treatment. Only your healthcare provider can provide that. The American Heart Association recommends that you consult your healthcare provider regarding your personal health matters. If you think you are having a heart attack, stroke or another emergency, please call 911 immediately.”