The Athena SWAN team will profile one excellent member of SMD staff each month for the coming academic year, 2017-18.
SEPTEMBER 2017: PROFESSOR AMRITA AHLUWALIA
Professor Amrita Ahluwalia is Co-Director of The William Harvey Research Institute and the only female institute director in the SMD. In addition to this no small feat, Professor Ahluwalia is also a Professor of Vascular Pharmacology and Editor-in-Chief of the British Journal of Pharmacology.
Prof Ahluwalia‘s research focuses on new prevention therapies and treatment of cardiovascular disease, particularly for hypertension and coronary artery disease, using dietary interventions as well as pharmacology. Hypertension is a global epidemic affecting 1 billion people, thought to be responsible for 50% of all acute myocardial infarction which is also the single biggest cause of mortality in the UK. Professor Ahluwalia’s research has shown that consumption of dietary inorganic nitrate can significantly lower systemic blood pressure. Inorganic nitrate is found in high levels in vegetables with the highest levels found in the green leafy variety but also beetroot, and it was the latter that Professor Ahluwalia used to show that in humans the nitrate content in beetroot is converted into nitric oxide. This molecule is a powerful protector of the cardiovascular system in part by opening up blood vessels and thus keeping blood pressure down. This finding that common foodstuffs can lower systemic blood pressure is likely to have a significant impact globally, and this ground breaking research by Amrita and her team led to her being awarded a number of accolades.
- In 2012, Professor Ahluwalia was the first woman to receive the GlaxoSmithKline Prize in Clinical Pharmacology in its 40-year history.
- In 2015 Professor Ahluwalia won the Prize for Research by the WISE (Women in Science and Engineering) Campaign.
In addition to Professor Ahluwalia’s incredible research findings, she is also she is also Editor-in-Chief of the British Journal of Pharmacology, the first woman to have this position in the history of the journal, and is a committed champion of equality in the workplace.