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Student Awarded American Heart Association Data Grant

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, as reported by both the American Heart Association and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Yet, certain individuals may face a higher risk profile than others.

Heart Disease Deaths Vary by Ethnicity

Risk equations have been developed to mitigate the high burden of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and identify individuals at greater risk of a cardiovascular event. However, a key limitation of existing equations is their development in populations with minimal Hispanic representation.

“One such equation, the pooled cohort equations (PCEs), has been known to overestimate CVD risk among Hispanic adults,” said Robert A. Mesa, M.P.H., a Ph.D. candidate in Epidemiology in the Department of Public Health Sciences at Miller School of Medicine. 

Mesa is the recipient of a one-year American Heart Association Data Grant. The project, titled "Performance of race-based versus non-race-based CVD risk calculators in a multi-racial/ethnic sample," falls under the Debiasing Clinical Care Algorithms - Data Grants program. 

With the support from the Data Grant, Mesa will work to assess the performance of two risk equations, the PCEs and the Predicting Risk of CVD Events (PREVENT) equations, among a diverse cohort. 

Robert Mesa
This grant aligns with Mesa's interest in cardiovascular disease and using computational algorithms to improve racial and ethnic minority health.

This project will estimate a 10-year risk of CVD using the PCE and PREVENT equations among non-Hispanic White, non-Hispanic Black, and Hispanic adults. It will also determine which equation has better discrimination and calibration in predicting 10-year CVD risk, to promote equal care and treatment, statistical tools and sophisticated models that reduce bias in clinically published algorithms being developed.

“I am honored to have been awarded the AHA Data Grant,” said Mesa. Tali Elfassy, Ph.D., research assistant professor at Miller, encouraged and guided Mesa throughout the conceptualization of the research and the grant application process. “I want to thank my mentor, Dr. Elfassy, for her support and mentorship during my Ph.D. journey.”

Along with Dr. Elfassy, Hannah Gardener, Ph.D., research assistant professor at Miller, will also be a collaborator on this project. 

The award, which begins on April 1, 2024, and concludes on March 31, 2025, has been approved for funding totaling $50,000. 

Mesa is excited to work on this research with both Dr. Elfassy and Dr. Gardener. “They have extensive experience in cardiovascular disease epidemiology and utilizing risk scores, I do not doubt that our team will successfully complete the goals of this project within the award period,” he said.

Mesa also acknowledges the strong foundation the Department of Public Health Sciences provided for him, particularly in the areas of statistical analysis and epidemiological approaches. “I also want to thank Dr. WayWay Hlaing for her unwavering support of the student body.” 

Written by Deycha Torres Hernández, published on March 18, 2024.