University Scholar Dr. Heather Prendergast

Dr. Heather Prendergast

The University Scholars Program, now in its 36th year, honors faculty members for superior research and teaching, along with great promise for future achievements. The award provides $15,000 a year for three years.

Dr. Heather Prendergast
Professor and Associate Dean Clinical Affairs, College of Medicine
Vice Chair Academic Affairs, Department of Emergency Medicine

Years at UIC: 23

What are your research interests? 
Minority health and cardiovascular health disparities.

How did you become interested in these topics? 
Emergency departments are the safety net of the health care system, providing care to everyone, including the uninsured and the underinsured. As an emergency medicine physician, I saw firsthand the health disparity gap widening year after year despite an improvement in early detection and treatment options. In addition, the age at which minority patients were presenting with secondary complications of cardiovascular disease was getting younger and younger. The emergency department sits at the interface between acute care and outpatient care/follow-up. As a physician-scientist, I wanted to investigate how to leverage the touchpoints with high-risk patients most effectively to improve their health outcomes.

What do you teach? 
As a professor of emergency medicine and a physician, most of my teaching is clinical and done within the emergency department at the bedside. In addition, I am a very active lecturer on the local, national and international level.

How do you balance teaching and research? 
I am fortunate to work in an environment that allows me to engage in both my teaching and research activities in a blended fashion. My current NIH-funded RCT is focused on the impact of an educational and empowerment intervention on blood pressure control in a predominately minority patient population being discharged from the emergency department. 

What’s your advice to students who want to focus their future careers on research?
Go for it! If there is an area that you are passionate about and see opportunities, be open to casting a wide net and over time you be able to narrow your focus. Align yourself with individuals that believe in you, as these individuals are some of the best mentors you will find.

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