Top award for heart specialist

Professor Karen Sliwa, director of the Hatter Institute, received the prestigious Paul Morawitz Award in Germany in April 2013 for her exceptional research in cardiovascular prevention, heart failure and the pathophysiology of cardiomyopathy.

The annual award is the highest recognition for exceptional cardiovascular research for German-speaking countries (including Austria, Switzerland and Germany) and can be given to scientists, cardiologists, cardiothoracic surgeons or paediatric cardiologists.

Professor Sliwa trained as a physician in Berlin, Germany, and worked subsequently at the University of the Witwatersrand, where she was the director of the Soweto Cardiovascular Research Unit. In 2010, she was appointed professor of cardiovascular research and director of the Hatter Institute for Cardiovascular Research at UCT.

Professor Sliwa, an National Research Foundation (NRF) B2-rated researcher, is one of a rare breed of cardiologists in South Africa in that she is both clinically active and trained in fundamental molecular laboratory methods, combining laboratory and epidemiological skills. She has widely published in both local and international journals and books of various topics related to cardiovascular medicine.

She is skilled in applying basic research methods to clinical problems and then devising novel and appropriate therapy. A major example is her work on heart failure of previously unknown origin occurring in African women around the time of childbirth (post-partum cardiomyopathy). By studying a laboratory rodent model, she and Professor Denise Hilfiker-Kleiner from Hannover, Germany, established the molecular mechanism of the disease and devised a hormonal cure with bromocriptine.

The Hatter Institute falls within the Department of Medicine and is part of the Medical Research Council’s Inter-University Cape Heart Group, which comprises three groups from UCT and two from the University of Stellenbosch. The unit strives to facilitate national and international research collaborations to consolidate and expand existing efforts to combat the most serious cardiovascular threats to health, and to improve overall prosperity in the region.

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