Throughout Dr. Hina Chaudhry’s career she has worked to advance both cardiovascular technology and women’s rights in the science fields. As the Director of Cardiovascular Regenerative Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital, Dr. Chaudhry conducts research in regenerative biology of the heart investigating both gene therapy and stem cell therapy approaches.  One approach under study in her laboratory involves human placenta stem cells to regenerate cardiovascular tissue, with her mentee and colleague, Dr. Sangeetha Vadakke-Madathil.  

At 7 years old, Dr. Chaudhry became fascinated with the heart after her father suffered a heart attack and  a team of doctors fortunately saved his life. She has always been interested in all aspects of medicine, and ultimately chose to focus on cardiology.  She believes that the heart is the most fascinating organ because it controls the entire body.

Many of the challenges that Dr. Chaudhry has faced throughout her work have been caused by her gender and ethnic background.  Dr. Chaudhry believes that many “women do not get the credit for what they work on for so long, … women have to meet a much higher bar to be promoted, … women have a harder time getting funding and philanthropy money.” Dr. Chaudhry  has been able to overcome these challenges through working hard, developing original research, and having influential mentors. She persisted in the sciences with Drs. Debra Wolgemuth and Judith Swain as her mentors. Dr. Chaudhry is now more focused on mentoring women in science because “women have always had it harder.”  While speaking with Dr. Chaudhry I could see and feel the level of respect that she holds for the people she mentors. “Being a mentor is incredibly gratifying.” She sees her mentees in the most admiring light possible.  

Dr. Chaudhry is working on using the human placenta for cell regeneration. For the past several years, she and her team have performed various experiments in mouse models to figure out how to regenerate cardiovascular cells after a heart attack with cells from the placenta. On May 20th, 2019, Dr. Chaudhry’s lab published their paper on this study. During the coming years they are hoping to reach human trials.

This is a very significant discovery in medicine. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death, as approximately 18 million die of it annually. Approximately 610,000 people die every year due to heart disease. A temporary organ that is typically disposed or useless after the birth, will be able to possibly help millions of people.

This type of innovation could have helped my mother’s father, who died of a heart attack and cardiovascular disease in his 50’s. He had several heart attacks prior to the one that killed him. With the use of stem cells, doctors could have re-strengthened his cardiovascular tissue after the smaller heart attacks. As a result his final one would not have been as catastrophic.

In the future, Dr. Chaurdhry’s discoveries could help many in my mother’s family, who also suffer from cardiovascular disease. It will also help those 18 million who die from it, and their family members who may carry the disease.

Dr. Chaudhry has shown me that persistence and strength in the science fields, especially as a woman, are essential to succeed. Even though she has hit numerous challenges in her career, she has continued to accomplish monumental achievements.

The “me too” and other similar movements have helped to open up conversations around and attention to gender discrimination and harassment in science fields; however women in science are still working toward achieving equality and fair treatment. This should not turn young women away from a career in science. Dr. Chaudhry’s advice for me and other young women is to focus on getting good grades, explore extra curricular activities, learn to manage money, find what makes you want to do your best, and understand that the world is competitive—you do not get somewhere without significant sacrifice, and that you have to be tough and have grit.

Many girls will experience similar gender bias and challenges in the work-place. It is important to learn from someone who has experienced similar situations so that they do not have to experience similar setbacks to previous generations.

For more information about her placenta stem cell study, please visit:

https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2019/05/14/1811827116

https://www.fiercebiotech.com/research/mount-sinai-researchers-isolate-placental-cells-regenerate-damaged-hearts-mice

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-05/tmsh-msd051719.php

Author

Rebecca Jekogian is a 15 year old 9th grader from New York City, who is passionate about environmental protection, travel, and technology. She was the first girl in science to speak at the First International Day of Women and Girls in Science in 2016, and she is a spokesperson for the Value Veda-teachers campaign.

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