Karen Sliwa-Hahnle

Director, The Hatter Institute for Cardiovascular Research in Africa

Professor Karen Sliwa-Hahnle is the Director of the Hatter Institute for Cardiovascular Research in Africa, University of Cape Town, South Africa. Born in Germany, she studied medicine, undergoing training as a physician and cardiologist in a number of countries. Professor Sliwa-Hahnle has lived in South Africa since 1992.

Cardiovascular disease in pregnancy and postpartum is one of her main areas of clinical and pathophysiological research. Recent progress in understanding the underlying pathophysiology of Peripartum Cardiomyopathy, enabled by novel experimental approaches interlinked with unique international efforts has led to great progress in awareness and management of the disease. In order to coordinate efforts even better, a Study Group, ‘Peripartum Cardiomyopathy’, of the Heart Failure Association of the European Cardiac Society, chaired by Professor Sliwa-Hahnle and others was formed in 2009. That has led to a large international registry under the EuroObservational Programe on Peripartum Cardiomyopathy.

Professor Sliwa-Hahnle 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. This study of 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 (under the umbrella of the ‘Heart of Africa studies’) to other African countries, including Mozambique, Nigeria, Tanzania, Kenya and Sudan. Professor Sliwa-Hahnle 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. She has published more than 230 Articles and her work is highly cited.

In recognition of her work, Professor Sliwa-Hahnle has received several awards, including the South Africa/Germany Year of Science Celebrations Award (2012), German Cardiac Society Paul Morawitz Award for Exceptional Cardiovascular Research (2013), the CPP award (2014) and  Africa’s Most Influential Women in Business & Government Lifetime Award (2015 and 2016). Professor Sliwa-Hahnle serves on a number of editorial boards and is also an editorial consultant to The Lancet. She is the former president of the South African Heart Association and is on the board of the South African Heart Failure Society, which was established under her leadership in 2005. She is president-elect of the World Heart Federation (2017-2019), serves on the European Cardiac Society International Affairs Committee and is a Board member of the Pan African Society of Cardiology.