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Trudy Galliard, PhD, RN, CDE

Award Name CCTS Pilot - Center for Women's Health
Award Date 10/20/2008

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Ethnic & Gender Disparities of Disease Drive Scientist

Why is it that diabetes and cardiovascular disease affect people from different ethnic backgrounds differently? Why do these diseases play out differently in men and women?

Since her days in nursing school, Trudy Gaillard, PhD, RN, CDE, has wanted to know the answers to these and similar questions. Her desire to find answers that improve care for the patients she serves has intensified since coming to Ohio State in 1994 as program director for the Prevention of Diabetes in African-Americans Program.

Now, funding from Ohio State’s Center for Women’s Health and Center for Clinical and Translational Science provides Gaillard, a researcher in the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism, with the opportunity to once again advance her search for those answers.

In addition to improving the understanding of cardiovascular health disparities between African-American and Caucasian-American women, Gaillard hopes that her OSU-funded pilot study will also lead the way for the development of a relatively inexpensive preventive therapy for cardiovascular disease in African-American women.

Gaillard’s research examines the effects of aspirin on the functionality of HDL-C, called the good cholesterol because of its role in heart disease prevention. Her study seeks to determine whether aspirin increases the activity of a specific enzyme (paraoxonase, commonly referred to as PON1) among African-American and Caucasian-American women.

If aspirin can increase PON1 activity and thereby positively affect HDL-C among those at risk, it could help slow the progressive thickening of carotid artery walls, a known heart disease marker. An aspirin-based prevention could offer an inexpensive therapy with enormous public health implications, adds Gaillard.

Gaillard believes her current research project is a natural progression from her work as an Ohio State doctoral student and with Ohio State’s Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism and fits well with Medical Center and national initiatives for improved preventive and personalized care.

“I’ve always been interested in ethnic disparities of diseases. I can recall that practically all of my undergraduate and graduate-level research papers focused on either ethnic or gender differences in diabetes and cardiovascular disease,” explains Gaillard.

As a student, Gaillard’s literature searches repeatedly turned up similar hypotheses for the ethnic and gender disparities related to diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Higher rates of physical inactivity, poor nutrition habits and obesity were routinely cited as the common causes.

“I truly believe that there are other unique and unknown causes for the ethnic and gender disparities,” states Gaillard, who herself has diabetes.

The National Institutes of Health-funded program that brought Gaillard to Ohio State in the 1990s helped her begin her quest to investigate these causes. That program examined the use of oral anti-diabetic medications in the prevention of diabetes in persons with family histories of diabetes.

“As a result of this program, I was able to explore the role of socioeconomic status, gender and other metabolic correlates of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. It has become apparent that women, regardless of these factors, suffer more from the devastations of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. In addition, the traditional risk factors do not always carry the same risk in African-American women compared to white women,” explains Gaillard.

At Ohio State, Gaillard says she has benefited from the advice of numerous experts, especially Kwame Osei, MD, Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism director, and Sampath Parthasarathy, PhD, professor of Surgery, Internal Medicine and Human Nutrition, who serve as primary mentors to this project.

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