Dr. Margaret McNairy Named NAM Emerging Leader in Health and Medicine

Dr. Molly McNairy

Dr. Margaret McNairy, an associate professor of medicine in the Division of General Internal Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine, has been selected as an Emerging Leader in Health and Medicine (ELHM) Scholar by the National Academy of Medicine.

Launched in 2016, the ELHM program annually selects early- and mid-career professionals who have demonstrated leadership and professional achievement in biomedical science, population health, health care and related fields. Scholars serve a three-year term and benefit from mentorship, collaboration and innovation opportunities with their class, as well as with NAM members and leaders across various fields.

A respected global health physician-scientist, Dr. McNairy’s research focuses on improving delivery of primary care, including HIV and cardiovascular diseases, in resource-constrained settings. For the past decade she has worked with the Haiti-based medical organization GHESKIO, in partnership with Weill Cornell Medicine.

“I’m thrilled. I never thought I’d be in the running to be considered for this honor,” said Dr. McNairy, who is also a member of Weill Cornell Medicine’s Center for Global Health. “This is an incredible opportunity to network with leaders in my career stage across the nation. I hope it elevates the importance of global health disparities research—especially research focused on improving health outcomes among patients living in the poorest conditions around the world—and creates opportunities for more work to be done in this field.”

Dr. McNairy noted that she’s grateful to her nominator, Dr. Jean Pape, the Howard and Carol Holtzmann professor in clinical medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine and director of GHESKIO, which was founded in 1982 as the first institution in the developing world dedicated to the fight against HIV/AIDS. Dr. McNairy’s innovative work has broadened the program’s focus in recent years—as HIV/AIDS evolved into a more treatable, chronic disease—by investigating cardiovascular disease outcomes in Haiti’s low-income population.

Dr. McNairy and her team conducted pioneering research to define previously unknown data on the cardiovascular disease epidemic in Haiti, including subtypes of heart disease, prevalence, age of onset, rate of progression, and modifiable poverty-related social and environmental drivers. Their findings showed that hypertension in Haitian adolescents and young adults occurs at four times the rate it does in Black Americans, with one of the drivers being environmental lead exposure. Additionally, the team learned that uncontrolled high blood pressure is fueling shockingly high heart failure rates in Haiti—about 12 percent, which is 15-fold higher than global assumptions. Her work also includes implementation trials evaluating novel community-based models of care for earlier detection of elevated blood pressure and treatment.

“We’ve collaborated with a renowned Haitian research center that serves as a model for how to conduct cardiovascular disease research in low-income settings,” Dr. McNairy said. “This work has huge implications for understanding the landscape of heart disease in under-resourced countries—which is an epidemic of early onset high blood pressure leading to heart failure. This finding challenges existing assumptions that ischemic heart disease is the global norm.” 

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