Professor Alta Schutte (Australia)


Principal Theme Lead of Cardiac Vascular and Metabolic Medicine at the University of New South Wales, and Professorial Fellow at The George Institute for Global Health, Sydney, Australia

Past President, ISH (2018-2020)

Position: Listen to an ISH Podcast with Professor Alta Schutte.

1.     What is your role at your work?

Leading research programmes on improving prevention and care of people with raised BP in Australia, while maintaining a focus on BP care in LMICs.

 2.     How did you get interested in your career path?

Before relocating to Australia, I worked for almost 20 years in South Africa in setting up population-based studies to understand the development of hypertension in populations of African descent. This expanded over time to LMICs where (by far) the most people with high BP live. I have always been fascinated on how such a critically important (and leading) risk factor can continue to be such a massive problem and go by undetected and without symptoms.

3.     What are you most proud of in your career or otherwise?

I am proud of the contributions I have made together with my colleagues in South Africa, but also globally, to improve our understanding of the pathophysiological and health system contributors to the development of hypertension. I am also proud of the achievements at the ISH during my term as president, in particular the development of the 2020 ISH Global Hypertension Practice Guidelines and contributions on the Steering Committee of MMM.

4.     What important career challenges have you faced and how did you overcome them?

Balancing family and work life (which is basically impossible) as a mother of two kids who are now teenagers. Most scientists face this challenge and we just have to find ways to do it. It is possible!

5.     What advice would you give your younger self?

Believe in yourself. Don’t be hesitant to meet and speak with leading researchers.

6.     Highlight your most significant research contributions and publications (3-5) – if relevant to you.

I have a very diverse research portfolio!

Leading the development of the 2020 ISH Guidelines during my term as president is an important highlight, especially since we made room and particularly focused on essential standards of care for low resource settings. This was a unique approach:

(1) Unger T, Borghi C, Charchar F, Khan NA, Poulter NR, Prabhakaran D, Ramirez A, Schlaich M, Stergiou GS, Tomaszewski M, Wainford RD, Williams B, Schutte AE. 2020 International Society of Hypertension Global Hypertension Practice Guidelines. Hypertension 2020; 75:1334-1357 and J Hypertens 2020; 38:982-1004.

When compared to other high-income countries, the management of raised BP in Australia is lagging behind many other countries. We pointed out this key challenge and are now working towards establishing a national taskforce to tackle this problem.

(2) Schutte AE, Webster R, Jennings G, Schlaich M. Uncontrolled blood pressure in Australia: a call to action. Med J Aus 2021; doi: 10.5694/mja2.51350.

I led the setup of a research team and network on the development of hypertension in South Africa. There are many key contributions but a most recent one involved the detailed evaluation of the RAS profile in an African population and how this profile predicts change in BP over time. Very excited about our findings.

(3) Gafane-Matemane LF, Kruger R, Smith W, Mels CMC, Van Rooyen JM, Mokwatsi GG, Uys AS, Brits SJ, Schutte AE. Characterization of the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system in young healthy black adults: The African-PREDICT study. Hypertension 2021; 78:400-410.

7.     Have you had any significant career mentors? If yes, please provide further details.

Since the very early days in my career 20 years ago I have had numerous important mentors (perhaps some of them didn’t even realise it). These included my School Director, Director of our research unit, PhD supervisor and senior leadership officers at the ISH and ESH. Importantly, some have been highly successful women with children encouraging me to follow my dreams.

8.     How can we support the next generation of women scientists?

This platform in ISH is a fantastic starting point. Open all possible channels of communication. Encourage early mentorship and openness of upcoming researchers to get in touch with those that are more established. There are often great willingness to work with and support early and mid-career researchers.