Three Women Who Are Playing Key Roles in Fighting Deadly Diseases

The number of women in the world of science is increasing every day and they are continuing to make tremendous strides. As we celebrate International Women’s Day today, we wanted to highlight three women who are making an impact with rare diseases. Who would you like to see featured on our next blog?

Serpil Erzurum, M.D.

As Chair of the Lerner Research Institute at the Cleveland Clinic, Dr. Erzurum runs one of the largest research centers in the US with a $250M annual budget. With more than 200 published articles and an elected member of the American Society of Clinical Investigation and Association of American Physicians, Dr. Erzurum has certainly made her mark. Her groundbreaking translational research uncovered mechanisms of pulmonary hypertension and asthma.

This led to diagnostic and therapeutic advances in lung diseases. Dr. Erzurum’s research has always been focused on finding a solution to a human problem. “We do all kinds of research here – heart, lung, brain, cancer, inflammation, metabolism – but never just for the sake of research,” she said.

Amanda Mae Fretts, Ph.D , M.P.H.

Living off the grid can tend to mean your health needs are often forgotten by the majority of the world. Dr. Fretts has spent her several years studying the lives of Native American Indians. As of 70 or so years ago, heart disease was nearly unheard of in this community according to Fretts. She has now discovered that the heart disease rate for Native Americans is almost doubled than what it is for the general population.

Dr. Fretts is working thoroughly with trying to understand why this is happening. She wants to better understand the association between potentially modifiable risk factors such as gene-diet interactions, lifestyle, diet, and physical activity. For the past 13 years, Dr. Fretts has been active in the Strong Heart Study which is a longitudinal study of disease and it’s risk factors in North American Indian communities in several states.

Betty Pace, M.D.

As the Interim Chief of the Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Division, Francis J. Tedesco Distinguished Chair, and Director of the Pediatric Sickle Cell Program at the Medical College of Georgia, Dr. Pace seemingly has little time left on her plate. When Dr. Pace isn’t deep in her research, you can find her promoting diversity in the academic and research world.

Dr. Pace leads studies related to globin gene regulation and the design of drugs to induce fetal hemoglobin to treat sickle cell disease. Sickle cell disease is a group of disorders that affects hemoglobin, the molecule in red blood cells that delivers oxygen to cells throughout the body. Dr. Pace is working around the clock to understand this disease and how best to treat it.