Bringing Collaboration to Cardiovascular Research
KL2 Scholar Rupal Mehta, MD, uses cross-disciplinary research to better understand heart and kidney diseases
Rupal Mehta, MD, assistant professor of Medicine in the Division of Nephrology and Hypertension, has spent her medical career listening to her own heart as well as those of her patients. As a Northwestern University Clinical and Translational Sciences (NUCATS) Institute Multidisciplinary Career Development Program (KL2) Scholar, the early-career investigator who specializes in kidney and heart disease, has had the opportunity to use a love for research to better lives.
“The mentorship that the KL2 program provides is critical to the work that we do as scholars and medical professionals. One of the greatest attributes of the program is that it facilitates investigators to build their scientific network not only with colleagues within our institution, but with individuals across the country.” She says, “I have met other K scholars here at Northwestern University who have provided me, not only with an inclusive and supportive community, but who have informed me about opportunities to advance my research program.”
In particular, Mehta is appreciative of the “Succeeding With Your K Award” seminar series, through which she learned about additional opportunities such as the Early Career Reviewer (ECR) program offered by the National Institute of Health.
The NUCATS Institute’s prestigious KL2 Program provides two years of dedicated mentorship, education, and career development opportunities to researchers as they conduct translational, multidisciplinary, clinical research.
Mehta, who grew up in Naperville, Illinois, earned her Bachelor’s and MD at the University of Illinois at Chicago before completing her internal medicine residency and chief residency at Case Western University in Ohio. Her educational journey came full circle with her return to Chicago to pursue nephrology fellowship training and a postdoctoral research fellowship at Northwestern. She will finish her Master of Science in Clinical Investigation this summer.
Healthcare has always been one of the most important parts of Mehta’s life. She didn’t anticipate that she would pursue a career in clinical research initially, however she became more involved with clinical research during her training and developed a significant interest.
“I have worked with inspiring physician scientists along the way who have provided the infrastructure to grow my research interests. I am still clinically active and when I am rounding in the hospital, I am always humbled by the strength of our patients during their most vulnerable times. This reminds me of why I originally went into healthcare, which was to help people during these trying times.”
As an investigator, Mehta’s research primarily focuses on the prevention and treatment of heart failure and cardiovascular disease in patients with chronic kidney disease. Because the two conditions are closely intertwined, Mehta plans to continue exploring the mechanisms that connect the risk of cardiovascular disease in patients with chronic kidney disease.
“I was drawn to the heart-kidney relationship after managing patients with kidney disease and seeing firsthand development of left ventricular hypertrophy and increased risk of heart failure,” Mehta says. “I am excited by the possibilities of cross-disciplinary research that could improve the lives of kidney disease patients.
As a KL2 Scholar, Mehta has been working on a project to identify subclinical or early heart failure using advanced cardiac imaging and functional testing. She plans to continue this research in order to understand the impact that an altered set of chemicals, called a metabolome, has on subclinical heart failure for patients who are already suffering from kidney disease.
Outside of the lab, Mehta is an avid Chicago sports fan and has been cultivating a new love-hate relationship with gardening. She loves traveling to new locations globally and is excited to be able to travel again post-pandemic.
Written by Morgan Frost