A Medical School researcher shares important insights affecting women from her recent projects.
Tracy Madsen RES’12 F’14 ScM’14 PhD’21, MD, has been studying the topic of women and stroke since beginning her residency in emergency medicine at The Warren Alpert Medical School in 2008. She originally focused on the disparities in the treatment of women in the emergency department.
“The ED was an important setting for me, because that’s where I care for patients,” says Madsen, an associate professor of emergency medicine and of epidemiology and attending physician at The Miriam and Rhode Island hospitals. “I’ve always been very interested in learning whether women who came to the ED with stroke symptoms were receiving the care they should be receiving.”
Over time, other stroke specialists came to share Madsen’s research interests.
“When I first started doing some of this work 10 years ago, it felt like there weren’t that many people working in this area, but the number of investigators who are actively working on ways to improve stroke care for women has expanded significantly,” Madsen says. “Understanding how to improve stroke care for women will not only elevate stroke care for women, but will ultimately improve stroke care for all.”
Madsen has participated in more than 35 research projects on women and stroke, focused not only on clinical care and treatment but also risk factors.
A woman’s stroke risk changes with age, she notes: the likelihood of a stroke is higher during pregnancy and increases again during and after menopause. Elderly women are the most likely to have a severe and debilitating stroke.
In the United States, one in five women between ages 55 and 75 will have a stroke, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; stroke is the third leading cause of death for women. Yet four in five strokes are preventable, Madsen says, which is why it’s important for researchers and clinicians to understand the risk factors and educate women on how they can protect themselves.
With the incidence of risk so significant, Madsen shares three insights from her recent research projects on women and stroke.