January 2012 Spotlight - Keith Diaz
Keith DiazTemple University,Philadelphia, USA
Current Position: Doctoral Candidate
Previous Training/Positions: N/A
When did you become interested in research relating to Hypertension?
As an undergraduate I had the opportunity to complete my senior internship in Cardiac Rehabilitation at a Hospital in Paterson, NJ. Working with patients, helping them to recover after a heart attack, other forms of heart disease, or after cardiac surgery by providing monitored exercise, nutritional counselling, emotional support, and education about lifestyle changes sparked my interest in cardiovascular health and disease. But, rather than treating the consequences of cardiovascular disease, my experiences during this internship kindled a keen interest in preventing cardiovascular disease. And, since we know that hypertension is the underlying cause of many cardiovascular pathologies, I became interested in hypertension related research as means to reduce the incidence of cardiovascular events and pathologies.
Describe your research interest & the research program that you are in?
My current research interest is focused on looking at the effects of transient fluctuations in blood pressure over hours and days (eg blood pressure variability) on endothelial health and function.
The research program that I am currently in is a unique situation as our Integrative Exercise Physiology doctoral program provides us the opportunity to work jointly with two different labs: (1) the Cardiovascular Genomics Laboratory directed by Joon Park and (2) the Hypertension, Molecular and Applied Physiology (HyMAP) Laboratory directed by Michael Brown. These two labs work in conjunction to elucidate the mechanisms involved in the pathogenesis of hypertension and vascular dysfunction, and investigate the role of exercise in the modulation of these pathologies; with a specific focus on minority populations. To accomplish this research mission, our labs use a translational research approach by combining both basic science and clinical research. The Cardiovascular Genomics lab investigates the molecular/genetic mechanisms underlying cardiovascular disease and adaptation using animal and cell models; while the HyMAP lab conducts clinical research with human subjects by looking at the effects of lifestyle interventions on the cardiovascular health of minority populations in Northeast Philadelphia. As a student in this program, I have been able to gain experience in basic science and clinical science research and have developed a unique skill set that places me within a new and fast emerging generation of translational scientists who can bridge the chasm between the lab and the clinic by bringing scientific discoveries from bench to bedside.
How did you know about ISH and its activities?
A colleague of mine, Praveen Veerabhadrappa, introduced me to ISH and showed me how ISH supports and provides many opportunities for up and coming researchers.
What do you consider to be your substantial scientific contribution so far (provide Pubmed PMID if possible)?
In this study, we looked at masked hypertension, a phenomenon in which an individual presents as having normal blood pressure in the office or clinic, but whom have elevated blood pressure when measured in their daily environment. The prevalence of masked hypertension in the general population has been reported to be ~10%, however when we investigated it’s prevalence in a cohort of putatively healthy African Americans we observed an alarmingly high prevalence of ~58%. This finding could have tremendous implications for clinical practice, as it would suggest that a large proportion of African Americans have undiagnosed and untreated hypertension.
Which conference did you first attend & which one did you first present in?
The first conference I attended was the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) 2008 Annual Meeting in Indianapolis, IN. The first conference I presented at was the American College of Cardiology (ACC) 2009 Annual Meeting in Atlanta, GA.
What upcoming conferences will you be attending and what is the furthest you have traveled for a conference?
I will be attending the High Blood Pressure Research (HBPR) 2011 Scientific Sessions in Orlando, FL at the end of September. The furthest I have traveled for a conference is to Chicago, IL for the American Heart Association (AHA) 2010 Scientific Sessions.
What is your favourite manuscript from a lab other than your own (provide Pubmed PMID if possible)?
This is a recent article that quickly has become one of my favourites. They used a phenomenal research design that could have tremendous importance given the increased interest in individualized medicine. Moreover, their finding that human blood outgrowth endothelial cells may be suitable for vascular tissue engineering is extremely important because these cells could provide a highly proliferative, easy to obtain, autologous source of endothelial cells that could be used for vascular grafts.
What entity (i.e. equipment, patient population) is essential to your research?
Our research subjects. We work with African Americans from Northeast Philadelphia for a period of 1-year. Without their willingness to sacrifice their time to come into our lab 3-days a week to exercise, receive nutrition counselling, or undergoing testing; none of our work would be possible. It is a tremendous sacrifice that they make to come to our facilities despite their busy schedules, family responsibilities, the weather and traffic. Any contributions that we make to advance our understanding of hypertension and vascular dysfunction in African Americans will be the result of these wonderful people who committed their most precious possession, time.
Describe your most memorable (proudest) moment in research so far?
I’m most proud about the growth of our lab. Having been with our lab since our humble beginnings and seeing how we’ve grown into a high functioning, highly productive lab; I feel privileged to have been a part of that growth.
What area of research do you wish you knew more about? Do you have any suggestions for other young scientists?
I would like to know more about psychosocial behaviour. As an exercise physiologist, we tend to focus on the mechanisms by which exercise can prevent and/or treat disease, but often overlook psychosocial factors and behaviours that determine whether a person will exercise in the first place.
To young scientists, I cannot stress enough the importance of maintaining balance. By balance I mean balancing your work life with your family life, your spiritual life, your health, etc. This doesn’t mean you should sacrifice your productivity, but rather it means you should look to improve your efficiency with the time that you have to attain the optimal balance.