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.”


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!