Women's Leadership Committee Members

WLC Chair

Hanrui ZhangHanrui Zhang, MB, PhD

Herbert Irving Assistant Professor of Medical Sciences
Cardiometabolic Genomics Program, Division of Cardiology, Department of Medicine
Columbia University Irving Medical Center
New York, New York


Dr. Hanrui Zhang is the Herbert Irving Assistant Professor of Medical Sciences in the Department of Medicine-Cardiology, at Columbia University Irving Medical Center. She received her Ph.D. in Pharmacology from the University of Missouri, followed by postdoctoral studies in functional genomics at the University of Pennsylvania. The goal of her laboratory is to elucidate the mechanisms and therapeutic implications of macrophage heterogeneity and plasticity in cardiometabolic disease. The main areas of research in her laboratory include (1) Functional genomics and mechanistic studies of candidate genes and genetic variants inspired by human genome-wide association studies of cardiometabolic traits (2) Unbiased CRISPR screening to discover novel regulators of macrophage function, in particular macrophage efferocytosis, and investigate their roles in homeostasis and diseases, including atherosclerosis (3) Disease modeling and functional genomic studies in human iPSC-derived macrophages. She has been an AHA member since 2007 and is a former member of the ATVB Early Career Committee (2012-2016). She joined the ATVB Women’s Leadership Committee in 2016 and is now serving as the Chair of the committee. She is the 2020 Irvine H. Page Junior Faculty Research Award Winner (sponsored by the AHA ATVB council).

WLC Vice Chair

Zhen ChenZhen Chen, MB, PhD

Zhen Chen, MB, PhD
Associate Professor
Arthur Riggs Diabetes Metabolism Research Institute
City of Hope, California


Zhen Bouman Chen, MB, PhD, is an Associate Professor in the Arthur Riggs Diabetes Metabolism Research Institute and a faculty member of the Irell and Manella Graduate School of Biological Sciences at City of Hope, California. She obtained her medical training in Basic Medical Sciences from Peking University, China and pursued her PhD study in mechanosensing and vascular biology at University of California Riverside. Dr. Chen performed her postdoctoral research at Academia Sinica in Taiwan and UC San Diego, in part funded by an American Heart Association (AHA) postdoctoral fellowship and a Pathway-to-Independence K99 award from the National Institute of Health (NIH).

Dr. Chen joined City of Hope in 2016 as Assistant Professor and has built a robust research program focused on noncoding RNAs and endothelial stress response. Her team integrates innovative high-throughput sequencing technologies, bioinformatics approaches, and multi-scale models to elucidate RNA-mediated endothelial biology in the context of diabetes. Her studies have continuously been funded by NIH, the Chan Zuckerberg and the Ella Fitzgerald Foundations.

Dr. Chen was a finalist for ATVB Junior Investigator Award for Women and a recipient of the New Investigator Award from American Physiological Society Cardiovascular Section and Springer Junior Investigator Award from North American Vascular Biology Organization. She has been a member of AHA since 2011 and has been actively involved in ATVB Council activities. She is passionate about mentorship of trainees from high school students to postdoctoral scholars, peer support for fellow researchers, as well as scientific outreach. She is committed to advancing the careers of women in science and medicine.

WLC Immediate Past Chair

Elena AikawaElena Aikawa, MD, PhD, FAHA

Professor of Medicine
Naoki Miwa Distinguished Chair in Cardiovascular Medicine
Harvard Medical School
Head, Cardiovascular Life Sciences
Co-director, Center for Interdisciplinary Cardiovascular Sciences
Director, Heart Valve Translational Research Program
Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Boston, Massachusetts


Dr. Elena Aikawa is Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Naoki Miwa Distinguished Chair in Cardiovascular Medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital. She is also Founding Director of the Heart Valve Translational Research Program, Section Head of Cardiovascular Life Sciences and Co-director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Cardiovascular Sciences.

Dr. Aikawa's Research Program focuses on the development of new therapies to prevent and treat calcific aortic valve stenosis, a disease that currently has no treatment options other than valve replacement. More recently she used systems approaches, involving multi-omics and network medicine, to identify novel therapeutic targets. She was at the forefront in the discovery of inflammation-dependent mechanisms of cardiovascular calcification. Her studies contributed to the discovery of calcifying extracellular vesicles as a precursor of microcalcification. She has been a member of the Working Group on Calcific Aortic Valve Stenosis and the Alliance of Investigators on Calcific Aortic Valve Disease of the NIH.

She holds editorial positions at the ATVB, Circulation Research and Cardiovascular Pathology. Dr. Aikawa has delivered more than 200 keynote lectures, invited talks and cardiovascular grand rounds, and has authored more than 300 articles. In addition to her strong interest in cardiovascular research, she enjoys mentoring young scientists.

Throughout her career, she has trained more than 70 research fellows and students. Dr. Aikawa remains committed to advancing the careers of women in science and medicine. She served as Chair of the ATVB Women’s Leadership Committee of AHA till 2022. She also served as first female President of the International Society for Applied Cardiovascular Biology (ISACB; 2016-2021). To recognize her outstanding mentorship, the ISACB recently announced the 'Elena Aikawa Trailblazer Award' to women who have made substantial contributions to applied cardiovascular research.

WLC Members

Kamilah Ali, PhDKamilah Ali, PhD

Associate Professor
Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine
Harlem, New York

Kamilah Ali is an Associate Professor at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine in Harlem. At Yale University, she received a Masters and PhD in Pharmacology with emphasis on bacterial drug resistance in the laboratory of Dr. Dieter SÓ§ll. Later, she completed an atherosclerotic lipid and lipoprotein metabolism post-doctoral fellowship at University of Pennsylvania with Dr. Daniel Rader. Dr. Ali’s research interest is apolipoprotein and lipoprotein biology in context of atherosclerosis. She is also involved in community-based intervention and awareness to address health care disparities/inequities especially hypertension in underserved communities. She is an avid champion for research opportunities for women and underrepresented minorities. Dr. Ali has trained and mentored > 40 undergraduates and medical students.

Cassandra Clift, PhD, BMECassandra Clift, PhD, BME

Post-Doctoral Research Fellow
Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School
Department of Medicine, Division of Cardiology
Center for Interdisciplinary Cardiovascular Sciences
Boston, Massachusetts


Dr. Cassandra Clift is a cardiovascular extracellular matrix biologist utilizing mass spectrometry techniques to evaluate clinical aortic valve disease samples, therapeutic biomaterials, and engineered cardiovascular disease models. She received her Bachelor of Science from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Biomedical Engineering and went on to obtain her PhD in 2021 in Biomedical Sciences the Medical University of South Carolina in the Department of Cell and Molecular Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics. Dr. Clift has been an AHA member since 2018 and has been a recipient of the AHA Early Trainee Poster Award as well as the Cardiovascular Outreach Award. Her training was funded via the NHLBI Predoctoral Fellowship (F31) and a NHLBI Training Fellowship in Cardiovascular Therapies (T32). Dr. Clift is now a post-doctoral research fellow at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Under the mentorship of Dr. Elena Aikawa at the Center for Interdisciplinary Cardiovascular Sciences, Dr. Clift uses multi-omics strategies and bioengineered models of calcific aortic valve disease to understand the role of biomechanics, cell-cell, and cell-ECM interactions on valve epigenetics and proteomics.


Ebru ErbayEbru Erbay, MD, PhD

Principal Investigator
Altos Labs, Bay Area Institute of Science
San Francisco, California

Ebru Erbay received a PhD from University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign in 2004 and MD from Ankara University in 1998. She then pursued a post-doctoral fellowship at Harvard School of Public Health to study the role of organelle stress in metabolic and inflammatory diseases. Dr. Erbay was a recipient of the Sabri Ulker International Science Award. Dr. Erbay was a faculty in Bilkent University from 2010 to 2017 and in Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and University of California in Los Angeles from 2017-2022 prior to becoming a founding principal investigator of Altos Labs. Her academic research was continuously supported by NIH funding. Her research, by combining a deep interest in the molecular regulation of organelle stress with in vivo disease modeling, strives to illuminate novel mechanisms that drive aging-associated, complex metabolic and inflammatory diseases such as atherosclerosis and metabolic associated steatohepatitis.

Gabrielle FredmanGabrielle Fredman, PhD

Associate Professor
Department of Molecular and Cellular Physiology
Albany Medical College
Albany, New York

Gabrielle Fredman received a PhD from Boston University in 2009. She then pursued a post-doctoral fellowship at Brigham and Women’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School to study the chemical biology of lipid mediators in the resolution of inflammation. Dr. Fredman carried out a second post-doctoral fellowship at Columbia University where she investigated the actions of pro-resolving lipid mediators in atherosclerosis. Dr. Fredman was a recipient of the Young Investigator Award from the Eicosanoid Research Foundation and was a finalist for the Irvine Page Award in 2016. Dr. Fredman is now an Associate Professor in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Physiology at Albany Medical College. Her research interests include uncovering mechanisms associated with defective resolution of inflammation in atherosclerosis and aging, with a focus on pro-resolving lipid mediator signaling and macrophage biology.

Delphine GomezDelphine Gomez, PhD, FAHA

Assistant Professor of Medicine
Department of Medicine, Division of Cardiology
Principal Investigator, Vascular Medicine Institute
University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
Pittsburg, Pennsylvania

Dr. Delphine Gomez received her master’s and PhD degrees in Physiology and Cell Biology from the University Paris Diderot, France. For her postdoctoral training, she joined Dr. Gary K. Owens’s laboratory at the University of Virginia to work on SMC plasticity in atherosclerosis. She identified a stable chromatin signature of the vascular smooth muscle cell lineage. Dr. Gomez developed an innovative method, named ISH-PLA, to detect histone modifications at defined genomic loci in single cells in histological tissue sections, allowing investigation of epigenetic mechanisms in archived specimens (Nature Methods 2013, PMID: 23314172). She also participated in a series of projects reevaluating the contribution of vascular smooth muscle cells in the development and progression of atherosclerosis and highlighting their remarkable plasticity (Nature Medicine 2015, PMID: 25985364; Nature Medicine 2016, PMID: 27183216; Nature Medicine 2018, PMID: 30038218). During her postdoctoral training, Dr. Gomez was recognized for her accomplishments by receiving a Scientific Development Grant for the American Heart Association (2015). She was also awarded the New Investigator Award from the Histochemical Society (2014) and the Junior Investigator Award for Women from the ATVB Women’s Leadership Committee (2015).

Dr. Gomez joined the University of Pittsburgh as an Assistant Professor in the Division of Cardiology, Department of Medicine, and a primary Faculty of the Pittsburgh Heart, Lung, and Blood Vascular Medicine Institute in 2017. Dr. Gomez has developed an NIH-funded research program focused on investigating the contribution of epigenetic mechanisms in controlling vascular development and vascular smooth muscle cell dysfunction in cardiovascular disease.

Ngan HuangNgan Huang, PhD, FAHA

Associate Professor
Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery
Stanford University
Principal Investigator
Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System
Palo Alto, California


Ngan F. Huang, BS, PhD is an Associate Professor in the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Stanford University and Principal Investigator at the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System. Dr. Huang completed her BS in Chemical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, followed by a PhD in bioengineering from the University of California Berkeley & University of California San Francisco Joint Program in Bioengineering. Prior to joining the faculty, she was a postdoctoral scholar in the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine at Stanford University. Her laboratory investigates the interactions between pluripotent/multipotent stem cells and their extracellular matrix microenvironment for engineering cardiovascular tissues to treat cardiovascular and musculoskeletal diseases. She has active or completed projects funded by the NIH, NSF, AHA, Department of Defense, California Institute of Regenerative Medicine, and Department of Veteran Affairs.

Hong S. Lu, PhDDHong S. Lu, MD, PhD, FAHA

Associate Professor
Saha Cardiovascular Research Center & Department of Physiology
College of Medicine
University of Kentucky
Lexington, Kentucky


Dr. Lu is an associate professor of Saha Cardiovascular Research Center and Department of Physiology at the University of Kentucky. She received her medical degree at Zhejiang University School of Medicine, China, and PhD degree in Molecular Genetics at Kanazawa University, Japan. She had her post-doctoral training in Dr. Alan Daugherty’s laboratory at the University of Kentucky. Her research interest includes the pathogenesis and mechanisms of atherosclerosis and aortic aneurysms. She has been an AHA member (ATVB Council) since 2003 and served as a technical editor of ATVB since 2017. She joined the ATVB Women’s Leadership Committee in July 2022.

Patricia K. Nguyen, MDPatricia Nguyen, MD

Associate Professor
Division of Cardiovascular Medicine
Stanford University
Director, Cardiovascular Imaging
VA Palo Alto


Dr. Patricia Nguyen was born in Saigon, Vietnam and immigrated with her family to United States. She graduated from Johns Hopkins Medical School and completed her residency at Columbia University and her cardiovascular training at Stanford University. Following her clinical fellowship, she worked in the laboratory of Dr. Joseph Wu to evaluate the efficacy and safety of stem cell therapies. Her research currently focuses on deciphering the immune-mediated mechanisms underlying cardiovascular diseases using a systems immunology approach and applying novel techniques in molecular imaging, iPSC technology, single cell sequencing, and computational biology.



Suellen OliveiraSuellen D. Oliveira, MS, PhD, FAHA

Assistant Professor
University of Illinois, Chicago - College of Medicine
Chicago, Illinois


I am an Assistant Professor and head of the Vascular Immunobiology Lab at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Originating from Brazil, I completed my M.Sc. in Cardiovascular Pharmacology and Ph.D. in Immunobiology from a premier research institute - the Carlos Chagas Filho Biophysics Institute at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. In the US, my research focuses on dissecting the role of endothelial cells in pulmonary vascular inflammation and infection, which has already culminated in data that resulted in several manuscripts, secured grant funding, and earned prestigious awards from distinguished societies, including the AHA. Beyond research activities, my commitment extends to fostering the next generation of scientists and physicians from diverse backgrounds and propelling them to positions in renowned institutions worldwide. Outside of my scientific endeavors, I can deny how passionate I am about art and nature, which I firmly believe to be essential to sparking my scientific creativity and providing a work-life balance to our intense research pursuits. Thus, driven by a profound connection to the AHA mission and by promoting diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility, I am honored to contribute to the ATVB Women's Leadership Committee.


Paula Rodriguez MiguelezPaula Rodriguez Miguelez, PhD, FAHA

Assistant Professor
Virginia Commonwealth University
Richmond, Virginia


Dr. Rodriguez-Miguelez is an integrative physiologist and Assistant Professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Sciences and affiliated with the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care, both at Virginia Commonwealth University. Dr. Rodriguez-Miguelez is also the principal investigator of the Vascular and Integrative Physiology Laboratory, focused on investigating the physiological and molecular mechanisms involved in the development of cardiopulmonary diseases through an integrative and comprehensive approach, including pulmonary, cardiac, vascular, and skeletal muscle functions, to understand their contribution to disease development. Dr. Rodriguez-Miguelez also serves on several national committees for the American Heart Association and the American Physiological Society and is highly committed to advancing gender equity within the field of cardiovascular health, advocating for women in biomedicine to empower and uplift the next generation of female healthcare and biomedical scientist professionals.



Gopika SenthilKumarGopika SenthilKumar, BS, MD-PhD Candidate

Medical College of Wisconsin
Milwaukee, Wisconsin


Gopika SenthilKumar is a MD-PhD Candidate at the Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. She completed her BS in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Her PhD work in the Freed Lab focuses on the influence of estrogen and sphingolipids on human microvascular function, and her training is funded by the American Heart Association Predoctoral Fellowship. Gopika has won numerous awards for her work, including the Cardiovascular Section Research Recognition Award at the American Physiology Summit 2023 and ATVB Early Career Travel Award at AHA Scientific Sessions 2022. In addition to her research, Gopika is passionate about mentoring and supporting students both in the lab and through pipeline and mentorship programs.


Mabruka Alfaidi MD, PhDMabruka Alfaidi MD, PhD

Assistant Professor of Medicine
Department of Internal Medicine
Division of Cardiology, Translational Cardiovascular Research
LSU Health Sciences Center


I am a Principle Investigator at the translational cardiovascular research group with a long-standing interest in vascular wall inflammation and treatment of ischemic heart disease, with originally being trained as a clinical cardiologist then as a basic science researcher, I have the skill-sets in various fields, including translational cardiovascular pathologies, molecular biology, and inflammation. I obtained my PhD from the University of Sheffield, UK in 2016, after discovering that in ischemic heart disease patients, the leaderless cytokine interleukin-1β is processed and released by the endothelium. My research vision is to develop a targeted therapy to locally modulate the disease process. The short-term goals of my research program, for which I received an AHA Career Development Award, are to understand how endothelial-to-mesenchymal transition develops in response to the atherogenic disturbed blood flow and how that influences atherosclerosis progression and plaque instability.

I serve on a number of national committees and boards, including the ATVB journal early career editorial board, North American Vascular Biology Organization (NAVBO) Online Program and Membership Committees, the ATVB Early Career Committee, and serve as a liaison to the WLC.

Past Chairs of the ATVB Council’s Women’s Leadership Committee (1999-Present)

  • 2020–2022: Elena Aikawa, MD PhD
  • 2018–2020: Isabella Grumbach, MD, PhD
  • 2016–2018: Vas Narayanaswami, PhD
  • 2014–2016: Daisy Sahoo, PhD
  • 2012–2014: Nancy R. Webb, PhD
  • 2010–2012: Kerry–Anne Rye, PhD
  • 2008–2010: Jeanine D’Armiento, MD, PhD
  • 2006–2008: Rama Natarajan, PhD
  • 2004–2006: Lindsey Miles, PhD
  • 2002–2004: Carole Banka, PhD
  • 1999–2002: Trudy Forte, PhD

The history of the ATVB Women’s Leadership Committee

The ATVB council was the first of all AHA councils to have a sub-committee for women scientists. The councils, Arteriosclerosis (A), Thrombosis (T), and Vascular Biology (VB), merged around 1999. Before that time Dr. Trudy Forte was the first woman Chair of the Arteriosclerosis (A) council (1996-1999), and Dr. Mary Sorci-Thomas served as the chair of the Arteriosclerosis council’s Women and Minorities Leadership Committee. After the councils merged in 1999, Dr. Forte continued the Women’s Leadership Committee, which she chaired and initiated the luncheon and the awards so that women scientists would have a way to celebrate and network. Dr. Forte also started the first Vascular Discovery meeting in 2000 and received the first Mentor of Women Award in 2001. The award was renamed “the ATVB Women’s Leadership Committee Award for Outstanding Mentorship of Women” in 2021 under the leadership of Dr. Elena Aikawa.