KITE scientist receives pair of awards for cardiac rehab research and advocacy

Dr. Gabriela Melo Ghisi’s work recognized by the World Heart Federation and Institute for Healthcare Advancement

Thomas Ghisi’s teacher asked him to write a paper about his recent trip to Europe, but he decided instead to create a PowerPoint presentation focusing on the highlight of the trip — his mom receiving the award for best video campaign from the World Heart Federation in Geneva, Switzerland.

The prestigious award honours individuals and organizations who have made exceptional contributions to the fight against cardiovascular disease and the promotion of heart health worldwide. 

“Most eight year-olds would have just written the paper, but he insisted on doing a PowerPoint. I helped him practise his presentation and every time I tried to ask a question he stopped me and said ‘No, questions will be taken at the end,’” said Thomas’ mom Dr. Gabriela Melo Ghisi, who is also an affiliate scientist at the KITE Research Institute, an adjunct professor with the department of Physical Therapy at the University of Toronto, and chair-elect of the International Council of Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation’s (ICCPR).

“Obviously having my efforts recognized is great, but seeing the pride in my son’s eyes when I showed him the award means the world to me. He inspires me to do better.”  

Dr. Ghisi earned the award for leading the ICCPR's 2023 World Heart Day campaign. The ICCPR’s campaign consisted of a series of creative videos that aimed to raise awareness of cardiac rehabilitation and its importance.

Cardiac rehabilitation supports patients recovering from heart conditions by providing guidance on exercise, education, and counselling in order to help them regain their strength and reduce the risk of further cardiac problems.

Recently, Dr. Ghisi also won the International Initiatives Award at the Annual Institute for Healthcare Advancement (IHA) Health Literacy Awards for spearheading an educational program for women living with heart disease called Cardiac College for Women.

Cardiac rehabilitation programs are often under-utilised by women because they fail to address the unique challenges faced by this population, said Dr. Ghisi. Cardiac College for Women provides educational material for women living with heart disease on exercise, nutrition, and mental health tailored to their needs.

“Often, these programs are based on the needs of men, which we have seen time and again does not work,” said Dr. Ghisi.

“The symptoms women living with heart disease have are different. The risk factors are different. The way they want to exercise is different. I developed this program to address these needs and give women the knowledge and confidence to take control of their health.”

Currently, institutions from Spain, Canada, the United States, and 13 other countries have reached out to Dr. Ghisi about incorporating this resource into their programs.

The Cardiac College for Women was financially supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. 

Dr. Ghisi isn’t the only over-achiever in her household. Thomas earned top marks for his presentation.

"I'm really proud of my mom and her work. Creating a PowerPoint presentation about our trip and her award helped me understand how much she helps people with heart problems,” said Thomas.  “I want everyone to know how amazing she is and how hard she works to make the world healthier."