STORIES FROM THE HEART
A Patient Meets Heart Pioneers
Donna Marie Robinson visits Sanford Burnham Prebys to meet four early-career scientists—all recipients of American Heart Association fellowships.
From left: Katja Birker, Clara Guida, Ph.D., Donna Marie Robinson, Chiara Nicoletti, Ph.D., and Ee Phie Tan, Ph.D.
“I may have heart failure, but heart failure doesn’t have me,” says Donna Marie Robinson. “I’m here today because of advances in biomedical research that led to excellent medical care and medicines that saved—and continue to save—my life.”
Robinson, a former Bank of America executive, was in peak fitness when she passed out on vacation in the south of France. When she returned to the U.S., she was diagnosed with heart failure, a condition that affects about five million Americans every year. Although genetics can influence the risk for heart conditions in many ways, Robinson was unsuspecting. “It came as quite a shock to hear the diagnosis ‘heart failure,’ but I’m learning to live with it,” says Robinson. “Instead of high-intensity spinning
classes, I now practice yoga to keep my body and mind in shape.” On a recent visit to our campus, Robinson met with Katja Birker, Clara Guida, Ph.D., Chiara Nicoletti, Ph.D., and Ee Phie Tan, Ph.D., all recipients of American Heart Association fellowships for early-career scientists. Over a lunch of healthy salads, they described how their research might one day improve the care of patients with heart disease. Birker, a graduate student, is studying