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Tulane SPHTM professor receives highest honor for extraordinary contributions to cardiovascular research

Rebecca O'Malley Gipson

Dr. Whelton with his wife, Shelagh Whelton, at the American Heart Association National Meeting

Tulane epidemiology professor Dr. Paul Whelton received the American Heart Association (AHA) Distinguished Scientist Award during the AHA National Meeting on November 17th in Philadelphia. The American Heart Association's Distinguished Scientists are a prominent group of scientists and clinicians whose work has importantly advanced our understanding of cardiovascular diseases and stroke. 

This award was created over 10 years ago to recognize AHA members for significant, original and sustained scientific contributions that have advanced the association's mission "Building healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke." Recipients of this prestigious award are honored during the Presidential Session at AHA Scientific Sessions. This award is the most prestigious recognition for a researcher in cardiovascular disease. 

“The award is rarely offered to scientists from the areas of clinical trials and population science, Dr. Whelton’s focus areas,” said Dr. Daniel Jones, past president of the American Heart Association and former dean of medicine and chancellor of the University of Mississippi. “Dr. Whelton is the leading cardiovascular disease epidemiologist and clinical trialist of the last four decades. His scientific work and his policy leadership literally changed the definition of hypertension. A career hallmark was Dr. Whelton’s chairmanship of the 2017 American College of Cardiology-American Heart Association Blood Pressure Management Guidelines which changed the definition and goal blood pressure for hypertension. Implementation of these guidelines will offer Americans and people around the world opportunities for longer and healthier lives.”

"The AHA award that Dr. Whelton received last week highlights a career that shaped how and when hypertension is treated around the world,” said Dr. Lawrence Fine, Chief of the Branch of Clinical Applications and Prevention at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health. “Hypertension is the number one risk factor for cardiovascular disease worldwide.  All of us who had the great pleasure to work with Dr. Whelton applaud his scientific and outstanding personal leadership."

“Dr. Paul Whelton is a global health leader and world-renowned epidemiologist with accomplishments spanning the continuum of clinical medicine and public health,” said Dr. Robert M. Carey, dean emeritus and professor of medicine at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. “He has a stellar reputation for designing randomized clinical trials addressing the prevention and treatment of high blood pressure and its detrimental cardiovascular consequences. Indeed, Dr. Whelton has chaired five landmark clinical trials documenting the efficacy of lifestyle modification and antihypertensive medication to prevent and treat hypertension. The scientific impact of any one of these trials is remarkable; the value of all, considered together, is truly extraordinary. Dr. Whelton is the ideal recipient of the American Heart Association Distinguished Scientist Award”

Dr. Whelton’s wife, Shelagh Whelton, and children Dr. Seamus Whelton (MPH ’04, MD ’08) and Dr. Megan Whelton (MPH ’06, MD ‘10) , who are both cardiologists, as well as many collaborators and colleagues from all over the world, were present at the awards ceremony. 

Dr. Whelton with Nancy Brown

Dr. Whelton with Rose Marie Robinson


From Left to Right: Dr. Whelton with Nancy Brown, Chief Executive Officer of the American Heart Association and Dr. Whelton with Rose Marie Robinson, MD, American Heart Association’s Chief Science and Medical Officer