Words of Wisdom

Ileana Piņa, MD, MPh, FAHA

Ileana Piņa, MD, MPh, FAHA

“We need to find a way to get into the lower socioeconomic group and focus on hypertension and diabetes. Prevention is key, and we need to ‘go where the people are.’"

 —Ileana Piña, MD, MPh, FAHA

AHA Affiliations


Previously Featured Words of Wisdom

Dr. Elaine Urbina

“Most of the time, when I have failed and I delve into the reasons for that failure, I find a teaching moment. I find something that I have learned. We can’t let our emotions prevent us from learning."

 —Elaine Urbina, MD, MS, FAHA

AHA Affiliations

“First of all, focus,’ she said. “There are so many things for us to learn. To become successful, you have to focus on a narrower aspect to become an expert in. Once you’ve decided what you are passionate about, then you need to identify a mentor. You will want to meet people interested in the same topics as you.”

She recommends becoming an expert at failure. “We can’t be discouraged when we apply for [and don’t receive] grants,” she said. “We need to pick ourselves back up. I can tell you I am an expert at failure. Most of the time, when I have failed and I delve into the reasons for that failure, I find a teaching moment. I find something that I have learned. We can’t let our emotions prevent us from learning.”

Furthermore, she states, “Try to figure out what you are passionate about. We work a lot of hours in our life. We have to recognize that there is a lot of tedium; we have to do tedious work in the course of research. It’s not all about going to meetings and giving presentations.”

Kathryn Taubert, MS, PhD

“I would remind them that anything is possible! Find your passion and follow it.”

 —Kathryn Taubert, MS, PhD

“I learned long ago not to think “what if?” Everything I have done has led me to where I am today, so I would not do anything over.” For those who are early career professionals, and particularly women, “I would remind them that anything is possible! Find your passion and follow it. I would also tell them, just as my mentor told me, to get involved in your local heart association…. I have two signs in my office. One says, “Always follow your heart.” The other says, “One of the deep secrets of life is that all that is really worth doing is what we do for others.” I have tried to live by those principles.”

Jennifer Lawton, MD, FAHA

“Don’t be discouraged. It is hard when you are beginning your career because no one knows you and you are depending on referrals from other people or just starting your practice, [which] takes time. You need to have good results, particularly as a surgeon or cardiologist. You need to have good mentors and good supportive partners to help you do that and also challenge you to do things that you would not consider doing.”

 —Jennifer Lawton, MD, FAHA

Maria Pilar Alcaide, PhD

“Always believe in yourself and in what you can achieve. And if you reach that moment when you think you cannot continue, think that other women went through the same and succeeded. You are not alone!”

 —Pilar Alcaide, PhD

Emelia J. Benjamin, MD, ScM, FACC, FAHA

“Careers are marathons, not sprints. Hence, similar to marathon training it is critical to have a training practice. I recommend individuals develop primordial prevention practices to foster resilience to prevent injuries, and to heal more quickly if one experiences an injury/setback.”

 —Emelia J. Benjamin, MD, ScM, FAHA, FACC

Professional Affiliations

AHA Affiliations

Dr. Benjamin is a Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology at Boston University Schools of Medicine and Public Health, and a clinical cardiologist at Boston Medical Center. She is also Assistant Provost for Faculty Development at Boston University Medical Campus, and Vice Chair for Faculty Development and Diversity in the Department of Medicine at Boston University School of Medicine.

A recent favorite book is Everyday Bias: Identifying and Navigating Unconscious Judgments in Our Daily Lives, by Howard J. Ross. She found it impactful because it highlights personal and systematic approaches to minimizing the negative consequences of unconscious biases.

Maria I. Kontaridis, PhD, FAHA

“There are three things critical to success in science: perseverance, persistence and grit. If you remember this, you will prevail and reach your goals.”

 —Maria I. Kontaridis, PhD, FAHA

Professional Affiliations

  • Director of Research, Masonic Medical Research Laboratory
  • Assistant Professor, Harvard Medical School, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

AHA Affiliations

Dr. Kontaridis, who focuses on molecular cardiology and signal transduction in congenital heart disease and heart failure is a member of the Council on Basic Cardiovascular Sciences and serves as Chair of the Early Career Subcommittee of the AHA Council Operations Committee. She is the Director of Research at the Masonic Medical Research Institute in Utica, N.Y. and an Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) Division of Cardiology.

Dr. Kontaridis is a huge proponent of early career scientists and an advocate for promoting women in particular. She believes one should choose his/her network and partner carefully, as their support will facilitate success. Anyone can achieve greatness, as long as he/she is willing to work hard, put in the time, and believe in him/herself. We all need to sometimes just take a leap of faith!

Lillianne Harris Wright, PhD

“Try to remember the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, 'Fear has always seemed to me to be the worst stumbling block which anyone has to face. It is the great crippler...You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.'”

 —Lillianne Harris Wright, Postdoctoral Fellow, PhD

Professional Affiliations

  • Medical University of South Carolina

AHA Affiliations

Dr. Harris-Wright, who focuses on molecular and cellular approaches to improve cardiovascular health, is a member of the Basic Cardiovascular Sciences Council with an expertise in cancer biology, angiogenesis, and matricellular proteins. She aspires to serve on other committees within AHA that support recruitment and retention of women and underrepresented groups in cardiovascular research careers. Along her personal and professional development journey, Dr. Harris-Wright says she is reading about the importance of having a growth mindset and a resilient spirit. She finds this both interesting and important because those traits are helpful in pursuing any goal and keeping perspective.

Dr. Harris-Wright encourages women to speak up, get help and use perceived failures as foundations to build something better. She also states, "as we reach our individual professional milestones, please consider lifting other women up as we climb".

Ronglih Liao, PhD, FAHA

“Believe in yourself. If there is a will, there is always a way!”

 —Ronglih Liao, PhD, FAHA

Dr. Liao, who focuses on basic science research, has been volunteering with the American Heart Association almost three decades and currently serves as Chair of the Council on Basic Cardiovascular Sciences.

Her work promotes mentorship as a high-level tool of leadership encouraging female scientists to pursue their dream.  As she says, “This is what scientific research is all about, it is a passion rather than a job.” That’s a key premise of the May 2016 article, Ronglih Liao: Science as a Lifestyle and it’s also reflected in her May 2017 commentary, From the BCVS Chair, both published in Circulation Research.

Emelia J. Benjamin, MD, ScM, FACC, FAHA

“Women in science and medicine need to experiment to figure out what works for them, and practice resilience before they are faced with one of life’s inevitable setbacks.”

 —Emelia J. Benjamin, MD, ScM, FACC, FAHA

Professional Affiliations

AHA Affiliations

Dr. Benjamin focuses on Cardiovascular Genetic Epidemiology, with expertise in atrial fibrillation, inflammation, and vascular function. She has volunteered for the American Heart Association since 1992 and currently serves as Science Representative to the Board of Directors. She also Chairs the Science and Clinical Education Lifelong Learning Committee and the annual Heart and Stroke Statistical Update Writing Group.

One of Dr. Benjamin’s favorite quotes is by Viktor E. Frankl: “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” The quote is relevant to personal approaches to mitigating unconscious bias, to being open to innovation, and to being resilient in the face of challenges.