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World Heart Day 2022

A Medical Affairs leader reflects on her roles as a granddaughter, daughter and doctor and shares how CSL is working to improve patient care, one heart at a time.

World Heart Day - September 29 - Use Heart for Every Heart

My grandfather was a doctor in India, and the only one within 60 miles of his village. When I visited him, I was moved by the long lines of people seeking care. This early experience made me contemplate the vast needs of underserved populations, and how to improve access to healthcare for as many people as possible.

I made a conscious decision to become a doctor, and though treating individual patients was rewarding, I was always driven to help a larger number of people. I studied the design and execution of clinical trials, which was a natural segue to CSL Behring, where a major focus of our research is on improving and extending the lives of patients, including those with cardiovascular disease.

According to the World Health Organization, cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death globally. To achieve better health for everyone, this year’s World Heart Day campaign has three pillars: expanding access to treatment worldwide, creating a healthier planet and prioritizing our individual well-being – the latter of which is often easier said than done.


Dr. Alka Shaunik, Senior Director, CSL Behring Global Medical Affairs, Cardiovascular and Metabolic Therapy Area
Dr. Alka Shaunik, Senior Director, CSL Behring Global Medical Affairs, Cardiovascular and Metabolic Therapy Area

I saw this firsthand after my mother suffered a heart attack. Her life was dramatically altered; she quietly wrestled with wanting to adopt healthier habits yet fearing a walk outside. We must consciously choose to “put our oxygen mask on before helping others.” This is especially true for women; we experience anxiety more often than men, and psychological stress can double the risk of having a heart attack.

World Heart Day also encourages us to think differently, which is at the core of the CSL cardiovascular and metabolic team’s research efforts. We believe thinking differently goes beyond pursuing innovative therapeutic approaches but also ensuring representation in our clinical trials. Heart disease is a global threat, and it is important that we seek patient input into the design of our studies to ensure we deliver therapies that are meaningful, accessible and that may improve medication adherence.

We have applied these guiding principles to our landmark Phase 3 AEGIS-II study, which is testing the theory that boosting the ability of HDL to transport cholesterol out of plaque (cholesterol efflux) may improve outcomes for the large number of heart attack survivors who are vulnerable to a second event.

The culmination of my experiences as a granddaughter, daughter and doctor has brought me back to where I started: consciously committed to understanding the patient journey, and to ensuring the best care for as many people as possible. On World Heart Day, and every day, I am proud to be part of CSL , a company that is committed to putting the patient first in all that we do because we know that every patient is someone’s family member, friend or colleague – and because curbing cardiovascular disease matters to every beating heart.