Dr. Jeanie Park was the first recipient of the John McKay Fellowship award in June of 2007. She developed and mastered a technique that measures sympathetic activity (the “fight or flight” response) in nervous fibers in the legs of kidney disease patients. With this technique, she was able to determine the contribution of sympathetic activity to the maintenance of blood pressure in these patients. One of her main projects was to determine the effects of exercise during dialysis on sympathetic nerve activity and blood pressure. During her fellowship, Dr. Park found that patients with renal disease had an exaggerated increase in blood pressure during physical activity that could lead to exercise intolerance and increased risk of cardiovascular events.
As an assistant professor of medicine within the Renal Division at Emory University, Dr. Park continues to study the increase in blood pressure that occurs in response to exercise. Currently she is trying to find the underlying cause, which could be due to abnormalities in the sympathetic nervous system or blood vessel wall, or due to cell injury from oxidants. She has identified a naturally occurring nutrient, tetrahydrobiopterin, which may be able to ameliorate some of these abnormalities. Her work is funded by the American Heart Association, Amgen Junior Faculty Award, and Atlanta Research and Education Foundation.