Long-time cardiologist advocates for women in medical studies in hopes of finding a cure for heart disease.
For Dr. Veronique L. Roger — a cardiologist, epidemiologist and outcomes researcher with vast accomplishments — uncovering disparities in heart health has been a lifelong pursuit.
Now, she will bring more than three decades of experience to a new volunteer role with Research Goes Red, an American Heart Association initiative to engage more women in research and translate science into actionable solutions to improve the health and wellbeing of all women. Historically, women have been under-represented in clinical studies, she said. This lack of women-specific heart-health data has led to increased death and problems with treatment.
As chair of the scientific advisory group, Roger looks forward to working with Research Goes Red to increase the number of women participating in medical research.
“This is the beginning,” she said. “Research Goes Red is an extremely powerful research platform for many reasons. We want to give a voice to these women who are living with or at risk of heart disease.”
The goal, she said, is to accelerate science that may one day lead to the treatment and cure of heart disease, the world’s No. 1 killer. Roger will help Research Goes Red improve key parts of the research process. These include reporting on existing findings, increasing the number and diversity of females in studies, and sharing information to help improve women’s health.
Empowering women to be a part of the research process will help fine-tune studies and create gender-specific ways to treat their heart conditions, she said.
“All medical advances that have saved lives have come from scientific research,” she said. “Knowing that should empower women to be a part of the research process. They’re going to be the beneficiaries of this research.”
She said Research Goes Red will also advocate for a 21st century approach to including women in research study groups. This includes using technology to deliver research questionnaires and provide updates on research studies.
Roger, who has served on multiple AHA committees, has a long history with the association, which provided her with her first research grant. She used the funding to study sex differences of stress testing, a technique to measure the heart’s rhythm and stamina during exercise.
“In the 1990s, the concept of sex differences was just emerging,” she said. “We knew then we needed to find out why women were doing worse and why they were less likely to get testing. It’s always been an interest of mine and I never lost that focus.”
Roger graduated from the Sorbonne University Medical School in Paris and the Minnesota School of Public Health. For the past 30 years, she has been a cardiologist and epidemiologist at the Mayo Clinic. Her epidemiology and outcomes of cardiovascular diseases research has received funding from the National Institutes of Health for more than two decades.
Roger has held numerous leadership roles at the Mayo Clinic. These include serving two terms on the Mayo Clinic Board of Governors and Board of Trustees. She was also the founding director of the Mayo Clinic Robert D. and Patricia E. Kern Center for the Science of Health Care Delivery.
At a national level, she has worked with several organizations. This includes being a part of the Steering Committee of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Coronary Artery Disease Risk Development in Young Adults. It is a multi-center cohort study of the distribution and evolution of coronary heart disease risk factors from young adulthood to middle age.
She has also served on multiple NHLBI committees, including the Advisory Council and the Board of Scientific Counselors.
Roger said research on health care disparities — among women, different races and socio-economic groups — is at a turning point.
“Awareness of the disparities is the first step,” she said. “But women and all of these groups need to know they deserve to be a part of the solution.”