Fulbrighter named as Young Investigator Finalist at the American Heart Association

Article by Fulbright British Heart Foundation Scholar Junaid Zaman (2015-16)

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Just a few months into my Fulbright British Heart Foundation Award, I had the privilege of being shortlisted for the prestigious Samuel A. Levine Young Clinical Investigator Final by the American Heart Association. Two of the final five Young Investigators came from the US, two from the UK, and one from Australia, representing the strength and depth of cardiovascular research in these countries. 

The meeting was held in Orlando, Florida and is one of the largest annual medical meetings in the world, with almost 20,000 attendees, and a global presence from more than 100 countries. Sessions includes five days of comprehensive, unparalleled education through more than 5,000 presentations, with 1,000 invited faculty, and 4,000 abstract presentations; all from the world’s leaders in cardiovascular disease. It also includes more than 200 exhibitors showcasing the latest cardiovascular technology and resources. It was a real honour and surprise to make the final shortlist, something which I had aspired to since entering academic cardiology training.

The full gamut of my Fulbright BHF experience helped me throughout this process – from the research itself, through to writing a personal statement and delivering an impactful on-stage presentation.  As a Fulbrighter I have increased confidence in public speaking, discussing the importance findings from my work and surviving tough questions from a panel! My study concerned a century old debate in the field of heart rhythm disorders.  The data I presented has the potential to reconcile this debate and allow for genuine progress in understanding of the underlying mechanisms behind atrial fibrillation and will hopefully lead to better treatment strategies.

I was also asked for an interview by MDLinx, an online provider of medical news and education after the final. This allowed me a further opportunity to raise awareness of these new results, explain the context of the work and my personal roadmap for my Fulbright BHF funded work to a general audience online. 

The competition itself was tough, with superb research from across the entire spectrum of cardiology being presented by my peers – ultimately the prize went to my Australian colleague, who presented a large randomized clinical trial of how weight loss can help prevent atrial fibrillation. Aside from the fabulous experience of such a high profile presentation, I received a plaque at the VIP dinner and made some contacts and friends at the event whom I will keep in touch. The entire experience was the best way I could have hoped to start my Fulbright time and will foster cultural understanding through educational exchange, in keeping with the aim of the US-UK Fulbright Commission. Taken together with the British Heart Foundation pledge to “fight for every heartbeat”, I will strive to ensure that the impact of this Young Investigator Final extends far beyond me or my own patients, by helping all patients with heart rhythm disorders globally fulfil their quality of life.