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2024 heart health faculty experts list

February is American Heart Month. The University of South Carolina is home to many faculty members who are available to offer their expertise in cardio care and research. To coordinate an interview, contact the staff member listed with each expert entry.

Rural heart health

Gayenell Magwood is a nurse scientist who works and advocates extensively with communities and health systems of South Carolina’s medically underserved areas. Magwood’s team has been funded as a center to address cardiovascular stroke disparities. Her work addresses racial, ethnic and rural disparities through community-engaged health equity research. She collaborates with researchers and clinicians at regional, national and international levels, such as leadership roles on the Council on Cardiovascular and Stroke Nursing. Her work for the American Heart Association includes mentoring other cardiovascular stroke researchers.

News contact: Nicole Meares,, 803-777-9147.

Women's heart health

Jewel Scott is a cardiovascular health researcher studying health’s development over time. As a College of Nursing assistant professor in biobehavioral health and nursing science, her focus is stress and adversity to cardiovascular health and factors that promote wellbeing, especially in adolescent and young adult women of color. “Risk factors such as pregnancy complications, chronic stress, and depressive symptoms are important considerations to optimize the heart health of young Black women,” Scott says. Her research is informed by her clinical practice experience in community health centers with uninsured and underinsured individuals in urban and rural environments.

News contact: Nicole Meares,, 803-777-9147.

Heart disease and health disparities

Dawn Wilson-King, professor of psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences, leads a research program on developing innovative ways to promote cardiovascular health in underserved populations. Her research includes promoting healthy diet and physical activity to minority youth and their families and developing effective childhood obesity prevention programs. Wilson-King leads a National Institutes of Health funded project called Families Improving Together (FIT) for Weight Loss that targets African American adolescents and their parents who are at high risk for diabetes and related chronic diseases.

News contact: Bryan Genry,, 434-333-0057.


Cheryl Armstead, an associate professor of psychology, is strongly committed to identifying how stress impacts cardiovascular disease disparities. She is director of the USC Health Equity Laboratory. The Health Equity Lab emphasizes cardiovascular health disparity research ranging from 1.) psychometric instrument development to measure racial stress; 2.) cardiovascular dysregulation and racial stress exposure among African Americans; 3.) provider-patient communication, implicit biases and postural tachycardia syndrome (PoTS) diagnosis disparities; and 4.) global social justice issues pertaining to women’s cardiovascular health.  Her research program emphasizes community interventions focusing on racial stress, diet and nutrition, and cardiovascular/cancer health disparities in marginalized communities. 

News contact: Bryan Gentry,, 434-333-0057.

Heart surgery

Dr. Jesse Jorgensen is board-certified in interventional cardiology and cardiovascular disease.  His focus is performing cardiovascular interventions that open blockages of heart arteries and the periphery arteries of the legs and kidneys. His special interests include complex structural heart interventions of plugging holes and fixing problematic valves, as well as transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) of minimally invasive approaches to performing heart catheterizations and heart stents. This leads to faster post-operational recovery than traditional open-heart surgery and shorter hospital stays.

News contact: Kendall Givens-Little, , 864-455-8209.

New treatments for heart failure

Dr. Frank Spinale researches new treatment options that can be turned into practice for the major causes of heart failure, which is the leading cause of death and disability in South Carolina. He works to advance our understanding and potential treatment in the area of cardiovascular remodeling, which addresses changes to the heart after injury. He helped to spearhead a new generation of heart failure medications with clinical development work for Entresto. Spinale leads a research team that studies a type of heart failure that is on the rise where the heart pumps normally but is too stiff to fill properly and is called heart failure with preserved ejection fraction. 

News contact: Emily Miles,, 803-727-0471.

Cardiovascular disease

Dr. Clinton Webb can talk about the triggers for stress-induced cardiovascular disease and the search for treatments. His research aims to provide new treatment targets for lowering blood pressure that originates in the nervous system due to stress. High blood pressure and the vascular damage it does that leads to cardiovascular disease is an enormous emotional and financial burden on patients with chronically elevated blood pressure. Other research has focused on the principal role of inflammation and the blood vessel aspects of erectile and clitoral dysfunction, which are themselves predictors of cardiovascular disease. He is director of both the School of Medicine Columbia’s Cardiovascular Translational Research Center and Institute for Cardiovascular Research.

News contact: Emily Miles,, 803-727-0471.

Colin Evans studies how blood vessels respond when blocked or injured and then examines if these responses can be leveraged to treat inflammatory vascular diseases. At the Evans Laboratory at USC’s School of Medicine Columbia, the vascular responses to how blood clots in an artery or vein (known as thrombosis) are viewed for ways to improving treatments for inflammatory vascular diseases, including acute respiratory distress syndrome. Using clinically relevant disease models and targeted gene editing and drug delivery techniques, the Evans Laboratory focuses on two discrete but related disease areas of thrombus formation and resolution as well as inflammatory lung injury and repair. 

News contact: Gregory Hardy,, 352-362-7052.

Camilla Ferreira Wenceslau is an associate professor in biomedical engineering and principal investigator of the Laboratory of Vascular Biology at USC’s School of Medicine Columbia. The goal of her laboratory is to understand vascular functioning in cardiovascular diseases, and she studies the workings associated with the vascular-immune network in hypertension, metabolic syndrome, aging, sepsis and drug abuse. Specifically, Wenceslau and her team studies the role of immunoreceptors, vasculature mechanics and the dynamics of blood flow. She also is an associate professor in the department of cell biology and anatomy through the School of Medicine Columbia’s Cardiovascular Translational Research Center. 

News contact: Gregory Hardy,, 352-362-7052.

Jingkai Wei is an assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatistics whose primary area of research is in the links between cardiovascular disease and cognitive aging and decline. He is particularly interested in how lifestyle choices of physical activity and diet affect those chronic disease outcomes, along with psychosocial issues of depression and vascular risk factors such as hypertension and subclinical atherosclerosis.

News contact: Gregory Hardy,, 352-362-7052.

Banner image provided by Freepik.

Why it matters

  • Heart disease was the leading cause of death in South Carolina in 2020, according to the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control.
  • For African American women, heart disease was South Carolina’s leading cause of death in 2020 when 1,401 died.
  • Heart disease accounted for 75,886 hospitalizations in South Carolina during 2020, with total hospitalization charges of more than $6.8 billion.
  • Approximately 6.7 million Americans over 20 years of age have heart failure, and the prevalence is expected to rise to 8.5 million Americans by 2030, according to the Journal of Cardiac Failure.