In a medical specialty dominated by men, Nanette Wenger spent her career showing how heart disease manifested differently in women.
Born to Russian immigrant parents in New York City in 1930, Wenger began working at Atlanta’s Emory University at a time when heart disease was considered an issue almost exclusive to men. No major literature described its symptoms or treatment in women.
Her own research found its symptoms frequently manifested differently in women than in men, leading to frequent misdiagnosis. Wenger’s research also found that coronary heart disease was the top killer of women in the U.S.
In 1993, she published her research in a pivotal New England Journal of Medicine article on the symptoms of heart disease in women. More than a decade later, she helped write the 2007 Guidelines for Preventing Cardiovascular Disease in Women. In 2009, she was given the American College of Cardiology’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
Wenger served as editor-in-chief of the American Journal of Geriatric Cardiology for more than 15 years. She has authored or coauthored more than 1,500 scientific and review articles, and currently serves as professor emerita at the Emory School of Medicine.
“My career shows that when large numbers of bright people get together and get the data that are shown to improve care, we can improve patient outcomes,” Wenger told the Women’s Heart Alliance in 2019.
— Zack Budryk
photo: National Library of Medicine/National Institutes of Health