Collaborations and Conclusions


By design, the Disparities SFRN operated as a strong partnership: Scientists worked together inside and outside the four centers, sharing training opportunities, methods and models to effectively push research forward.

“It’s increasingly clear that science is no longer conducted by individuals, necessarily,” said Dr. Spero Manson, Center Director at the University of Colorado Denver. “If you look at the recent Nobel awards in science, you see they are not individuals, but teams of individuals. That team approach is important in this network setting, where perspectives and skillsets weave together.”

Collaborations occurred on many different levels. For example, fellows exchanged ideas during regular teleconferences. On a deeper level, Morehouse School of Medicine and Emory University School of Medicine teamed up to launch the joint MSM/Emory Cardiovascular (MECA) Center for Health Equity.

The partnership grew from an extension of several research programs focused on increasing a deeper understanding of cardiovascular disease in health disparities and social determinants of health, including conversations between Dr. Arshed Quyyumi at Emory and Dr. Herman Taylor of Morehouse, who became the center’s director. “We saw this as a golden opportunity to work together toward a unique aspect of health in African Americans and the resolution of health disparities,” Taylor said.

“Collaboration was key — not just among scientists who think in the same space and who work in the same disciplines, but collaboration across multiple disciplines,” said Dr. Cheryl Anderson, the Oversight Advisory Committee Chairperson. “Collaboration ensured that the process was informed and enriched through multiple lenses.”

The exchange of ideas during the Disparities SFRN could help improve health inequities for years to come, said Dr. Mercedes Carnethon, Co-Center Director at Northwestern University.

“There are many different models for studying disparities,” Carnethon said. “For example, the group at University of Colorado Denver did ethnographies and interviewed people, which was so different than the laboratory studies we did at our center. I learned a lot about different disciplines and how they approach research.

Circle of Logos Disparities


All AHA SFRNs share common goals, such as training new investigators, producing new research and identifying new programs and policies to reduce cardiovascular disease.

But the Disparities SFRN had the unique challenge of battling society-wide health inequities that have persisted throughout the nation’s history, with a devastating impact on under-represented racial and ethnic groups. As successful as the Disparities Network was, it’s just the beginning, said Dr. Cheryl Anderson, the Oversight Advisory Committee Chairperson.

“The national conversation has shifted,” Anderson said. “People are open to talking about these issues. Now we need a longstanding, sustained commitment to fighting the system of disparities and focusing on upstream factors.

“The American Heart Association has been fighting disparities for so long that it’s well-positioned to lead in this space,” she said. “This is a real opportunity.”

Since the first SFRN launched in 2014, the AHA has created 11 more. In addition to Disparities in CVD & Stroke, three other networks have completed: Prevention, Hypertension and Go Red For Women.

Ongoing networks are focused on Heart Failure, Obesity, Children, Vascular Disease, Atrial Fibrillation, Arrhythmias & Sudden Cardiac Death, Cardiometabolic Health & Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus and Health Technologies & Innovation.