Meet the 2018 Laureates: Elizabeth Barrett-Connor, MD

Barrett-Connor, Elizabeth

Fred Conrad Koch Lifetime Achievement Award 

Elizabeth Barrett-Connor, MD

Elizabeth Barrett-Connor, MD, has made paradigm-shifting contributions in endocrine physiology and the role of hormones in disease pathogenesis (focus on gender differences) in cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, and breast cancer. It is hard to imagine the existence of any other individual whose work reflects such staggering impact. The hallmarks of Dr. Barrett-Connor’s enduring success — a driving quest for the truth, rigorous scientific discipline, and a joyful passion — have infused every aspect of her career, whether as investigator, lecturer, teacher, or mentor. She has helped make women more visible in the endocrinology field, not by example of her own shining star, but by her constant recognition of light coming from others.

The hallmarks of Dr. Barrett-Connor’s enduring success — a driving quest for the truth, rigorous scientific discipline, and a joyful passion — have infused every aspect of her career, whether as investigator, lecturer, teacher, or mentor.

She is the founder of the Rancho Bernardo Heart and Chronic Disease Study, a prospective population-based study. From this, she explored coronary heart disease (CHD) risks, delineated differences in CHD mortality between the sexes, and exposed hyperlipidemia and diabetes as risk factors. Dr. Barrett-Connor then served as principal Investigator (PI) or co-PI for numerous clinical trials examining the role of estrogens/selective estrogen modulators on cardiovascular outcomes, lifestyle interventions on diabetes severity, and bone-specific medications on osteoporotic fractures. These include the Postmenopausal Estrogen and Progestin Interventions (PEPI) trial, Heart and Estrogen/Progestin Replacement Study (HERS), Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) trials, Fracture Intervention Trial (FIT), Osteoporotic Fracture in Men (MROS) cohort, Multiple Outcomes of Raloxifene Evaluations (MORE) trial, Raloxifene Use for the Heart (RUTH) trial, the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP), and the Emerging Risk Factors Collaboration. Although the PEPI trial found that hormone replacement therapy improved lipid profiles, the HERS results indicated that estrogen increased the risk of myocardial infarction and death in women with known disease.

Dr. Barrett-Connor’s ability to question observational studies, ultimately validated by WHI findings, reflects her advocacy for the importance of performing randomized trials. Her scientific discipline and ability to identify methodological flaws make her an ultimate “seeker of truth.”

 

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