This year, it is estimated that nearly 1.4 million Americans will experience a new or recurrent myocardial infarction and that 795 000 Americans will experience a stroke. Moreover, despite the decline in the age-adjusted death rates for coronary heart disease and stroke, cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death in the United States; the prevalence of diabetes mellitus and obesity continues to increase worldwide; and the delivery of scientific discovery from the bench to the bedside and more broadly into the community falls short of the ideal standards of care recommended in our clinical practice guidelines. Yet with so much to be accomplished, the number of trainees pursuing careers in cardiovascular investigation has decreased. Although the reasons for this discordance are numerous (including competing interests, the challenge to obtain funding, financial considerations, and a declining workforce), the lack of an educational forum that provides the tools to launch a career in heart and stroke research must not be among them.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recognizes the importance and reward of scientific discovery. Since 1949, the AHA has invested more that 2.9 billion dollars in research. AHA funding directives have focused on young researchers and many of its programs are intended to support career development. Nearly 75% of the research dollars are awarded to early career investigators which in 2007–2008 amounted to 116 million dollars. In addition, the AHA provides national as well as international mentoring opportunities and has positioned young academic clinicians and investigators on its scientific councils and committees to garner their interest and input.
Therefore, it is timely to begin this new series in Circulation, “Careers in Cardiovascular Research: A Primer for New Investigators,” that will serve to provide a foundation upon which to build a career path in cardiovascular investigation. After the overview article in this issue of the journal, subsequent articles will appear in the second issue of each month. Using a practical and “how-to” approach to beginning a research career in cardiovascular disease across the spectrum of specific types of investigation, the primer will address: identifying funding opportunities; choosing a research project and mentor; selecting a research career direction, including basic, clinical, and epidemiological outcomes and translational cardiovascular investigation; specific issues and opportunities for international trainees; ethics in cardiovascular research; how to write a grant, prepare and publish an article, and find a job; and finally, how to transition from trainee to mentor.
Nearly 80 million Americans are living with some form of cardiovascular disease. Moreover, in the United States, cardiovascular disease claims >900 000 lives each year, and coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. To our next generation of investigators—we hope that this series will inspire you to pursue research training and will provide a road map to navigate the beginnings of a successful and rewarding career. The cardiovascular health of our nation and of countries around the world depends on it.