This nationally recognized award is presented at the Annual Scientific Sessions conference hosted by the American Heart Association (AHA) to recognize and reward an individual who is making outstanding contributions to the advancement of clinical science and who currently heads an outstanding clinical research program. The prize comes with a $5,000 honorarium.
McDermott, also a professor of Preventive Medicine in the Division of Epidemiology, is an accomplished physician-scientist with extensive expertise in lower extremity peripheral artery disease and has authored hundreds of publications which have furthered scientific knowledge of the symptoms and treatment of the condition.
Peripheral artery disease (PAD) in the legs or lower extremities is characterized by the narrowing or blockage of the vessels that carry blood from the heart to the legs. It is primarily caused by the buildup of fatty plaque in the arteries and affects more than 6.5 million people aged 40 and older in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
McDermott’s initial scientific investigation of PAD demonstrated for the first time that people with PAD had more difficulty with walking distances and greater declines in walking ability over time than people without PAD, and that this phenomenon occurred even in people with PAD who reported no symptoms from their condition.
Following clinical trials on the effectiveness of supervised treadmill walking for improving mobility in patients living with PAD, McDermott’s research has helped to change clinical practice guidelines to recommend home-based exercise as a treatment. McDermott’s findings also played a role in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ decision to cover supervised exercise for PAD patients.
“My laboratory’s work changed the understanding of PAD when we used the six-minute walk test to objectively measure the magnitude of walking difficulty in people with PAD and showed that walking difficulty even occurred in people without classic symptoms of PAD, including those who were asymptomatic. Later, my laboratory’s work contributed to changes in clinical practice guidelines by documenting that a six-month home-based exercise program significantly improved walking performance and had durable effects on walking performance in PAD,” McDermott said. “More recently, we completed Phase II clinical trials documenting preliminary evidence of the benefits of cocoa flavanols and other treatments that reduce oxidative stress on walking performance in people with PAD. We continue to conduct Phase II and III clinical trials to identify effective and accessible therapies to improve walking performance in people with PAD.”
McDermott has also conducted research into making clinical trials more accessible for participants, an effort spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, McDermott was previously recognized with an AHA Distinguished Scientist Award in 2017, the 2021 SGIM John M. Eisenberg National Award for Career Achievement in Research as well as the AHA’s 2022 Peripheral Vascular Disease Distinguished Achievement Award.
“The AHA Clinical Research Award is a tremendous honor,” McDermott said. “The AHA is the oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting cardiovascular disease and it is the largest not-for-profit organization that funds scientific investigation of cardiovascular disease. I am grateful and honored that my investigative team’s contributions to the scientific investigation of peripheral artery disease have been recognized by the AHA.”
McDermott added that this award would not have been possible without the support of her collaborators, particularly Kathryn Domanchuk, who has been the manager of the McDermott laboratory for nearly 20 years.
“There are many people to recognize, but Donald Lloyd-Jones, Phil Greenland, Lihui Zhao, Karen Ho, and Rob Sufit are among the investigators at Northwestern who have supported and contributed to the work in my lab,” McDermott said. “My late husband was a tremendous supporter of my work in PAD. He and our three children have been steadfast in their encouragement and support — and have put up with long hours of work. I am also grateful for the support of Northwestern University. It is a privilege to work here.”