Cardiovascular disease culprits: the search starts in childhood

HealtheX, the annual forum and celebration of medical and health science student research successfully adapted to restrictions. In an online format, HealtheX 2021 was as successful as ever and we congratulate the AMRF Outstanding Emerging Researcher & Best Doctoral Oral Presentation winner, Dr Robyn May.

True to form a virtual version of HealtheX 2021, the University of Auckland's main forum for medical and health science students to present their research was staged. At AMRF, we consider HealtheX to be an important incubator for up-and-coming researchers and so every year we support three of the top awards.

This year we were delighted that Dr Robyn May, one of the recipients of an AMRF doctoral scholarship in 2020, took out the top award for AMRF Outstanding Emerging Researcher & Best Doctoral Oral Presentation.

Robyn's research is focused on 'the search for vascular culprits' and aims to use computational modelling to identify differences in cardiovascular physiology between newborns of different gestational ages. We highlighted Robyn's work in our 2020 Annual Report when she was awarded an AMRF doctoral scholarship.

Most of us have heard of Olympian Michael Phelps, the greatest swimmer in modern times, who is also famed for his personal concern with heart health. He once said, 'the problem with heart disease is the first symptoms are often fatal' and that's why it's so important to understand the risks of cardiovascular disease in the earliest stages of life.

When we asked Robyn what the end game of her research is, her answer: "We know that babies born early are at greater risk of heart disease but there is still uncertainty about the physiological mechanism by which preterm birth is related to poor cardiovascular outcomes later in life. My research aims to address this knowledge gap using computational modelling and contribute to future clinical studies to reduce these risk factors."

Congratulations, Robyn!

Here's the winning abstract: