When it comes to fulfilling the goals and mission of the American Heart Association, the University of Alabama at Birmingham has served an integral role through the years; the fifth UAB faculty member has just been installed as the president-elect of the AHA.
Donna Arnett, Ph.D., MSPH, professor and chair of the Department of Epidemiology in the UAB School of Public Health, will begin her term on July 1, 2011. Then on July 1, 2012, Arnett will officially be the president of the AHA, becoming the first epidemiologist in that role.
"I am very excited; the AHA is a wonderful organization. I think the election of an epidemiologist really fits well with their position on building healthier lives free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke," says Arnett.
Arnett has been with the AHA since 1991. She is the president of the Greater Southeast Affiliate of the AHA, representing Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Puerto Rico, Tennessee and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Arnett has also been the chair of the AHA national research committee and recently served as chair of the scientific publishing committee.
As president-elect, Arnett will work closely with the new incoming president, as well as the immediate past president, to handle strategy issues. She will represent the president when he can't travel and will also represent the AHA at various national meetings.
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, according to the AHA. A major goal Arnett has set for her tenure as president-elect is to push the agenda of prevention.
"Recently the AHA discovered that 39 percent of Americans think they are in ideal health, but when you actually count the statistic – their diet, weight and amount of exercise – less than 1 percent is in ideal health, and my goal is to change that," Arnett explains.
Arnett received her Ph.D. in epidemiology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a master's degree in biostatistics and epidemiology and a bachelor's degree in nursing from the University of South Florida.