Prof. Karen Sliwa

Prof. Karen Sliwa, MD, PhD, FESC, FACC is the Director of the Hatter Institute for Cardiovascular Research in Africa (, University of Cape Town and Director of the Soweto Cardiovascular Research Unit (, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa.

Professor Karen Sliwa has been extensively involved in creating worldwide awareness of Peripartum Cardiomyopathy, one of her main areas of clinical and pathophysiological research, since 1998 (as reviewed by Sliwa et al. Lancet 2006).

In the past year this rare, and potentially devastating, disease has received increasing recognition worldwide. Recent progress in understanding underlying pathophysiology enabled by novel experimental approaches, together with a unique international effort to join forces between Western countries and developing countries, has led to great progress in awareness and management of the disease (Hilfiker-Kleiner et al. Cell 2007; Sliwa et al. Europe J Heart Failure 2010, Sliwa et al. Circulation 2010). In order to coordinate efforts even better, a Study Group, ‘Peripartum Cardiomyopathy’, of the Heart Failure Association of the European Cardiac Society, Chaired by Prof. Karen Sliwa and Prof. B. Pieske, was formed in 2009. A Position Statement, highlighting the need for larger awareness worldwide was published in 2010 (Sliwa et al. Europ J Heart Failure 2010). In January 2011 a large European Registry on Peripartum Cardiomyopathy was approved and will commence at the end of 2011, under our leadership. Karen Sliwa has also been invited to take part in the overall European Cardiac Society (ESC) Registry on Cardiac Disease in Pregnancy. This is currently running in all ESC and ESC-affiliated countries, such as Egypt, Turkey, South Africa. 

Prof Sliwa is part of the new Working Group on Research of the World Heart Federation (WHF). She is also involved in the 2012 WHF Congress programme development/selection of sessions. Two sessions are dedicated to detection and prevention of cardiovascular disease in pregnancy.

Karen Sliwa has also established a population study in Africa called the ‘Heart of Soweto Study’ to investigate the prevalence, presentation and management of cardiac disease in an urban African population (Sliwa et al. The Lancet 2008; European Heart Journal 2010). This study, on more than 8000 patients, highlighted the high prevalence of hypertension, obesity and cardiac disease in women of childbearing age. She has recently expanded her population studies to other African countries, including Mozambique, Nigeria, Tanzania, Kenya and Sudan. She has designed a number of innovative research programs and leveraged funding for several major research projects, not only in South Africa and the rest of Africa, but also internationally.