Faculty Spotlight: Keith C. Ferdinand, MD

In recognition of Black History and Women’s History Months in February and March 2023, Cardiometabolic Health Congress (CMHC) hosted a one-hour virtual experience to address cardiometabolic considerations – pearls and pitfalls – in both of these populations. In this Q&A-style webinar, experts discuss where the industry is at in addressing and overcoming gaps in care and outcomes in women and Black patients, and where we can expect to be at this time next year.

Longtime CMHC faculty member and diversity and inclusion advocate Keith C. Ferdinand, MD, hosted Drs. Rachel M. Bond and James R. Gavin III, to address the importance of diversity and inclusion in cardiometabolic health during this special webinar.

Meet Dr. Ferdinand

After receiving his medical degree from the Howard University College of Medicine in Washington, D.C., Dr. Ferdinand went on to become board certified in internal medicine and cardiovascular disease, subspecialty certified in nuclear cardiology, and develop a particular interest in clinical hypertension.



In his clinical practice, Dr. Ferdinand focuses largely on cardiac risk factor evaluation and control, including hypertension and hyperlipidemia, especially in communities of racial and ethnic minorities.

Leadership in Medicine and Public Health

Dr. Ferdinand has been heavily involved in many national organizations concerned with public health, including the Association of Black Cardiologists, of which he was the former Chair and Chief Science Officer, the American Society of Hypertension, of which he was a board member, and the Healthy Heart Community Prevention Program, a cardiovascular risk program targeting African American and other high-risk populations.

As past chair of the National Forum for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention, Dr. Ferdinand provided leadership and encouragement for the collaboration of more than 65 organizations. Dr. Ferdinand focuses largely on cardiac risk factor evaluation and control, especially hypertension and hyperlipidemia, including communities of racial and ethnic minorities. He has had over 100 manuscripts published and has a strong media presence. His passion for patient-care is highlighted in his commitment to non-profit work and community service.

In 2015 he was inducted into the Association of University Cardiologists, representing the top 135 investigators and academics in American cardiology.

A Long and Lauded Career

In 2004, Dr. Ferdinand received the Louis B. Russell, Jr. Memorial Award of the American Heart Association (AHA). Other awards include the Congressional Black Caucus Health Braintrust for journalism, Charles Drew award for medical excellence from the National Minority Quality Foundation, Wenger Award for Medical Leadership by WomenHeart, ABC Spirit of the Heart Distinguished Leadership Award, 2019 Xavier University Champion Award for health equity, and AHA’s 2019 James B. Herrick Award for Outstanding Achievement in Clinical Cardiology. On Jan. 13th, 2023, he was awarded the Living Legends Award from the Southern University at New Orleans (SUNO) Center for African and African American Studies (CAAAS). The award honors unsung heroes in the African American community of New Orleans.

Dr. Ferdinand receives the Living Legends Award in 2023

Social Determinants and Barriers in COVID-19 Vaccination Rates

In Overcoming Barriers to COVID-19 Vaccination in African Americans: The Need for Cultural Humility, Dr. Ferdinand addresses mistrust, bias, structural racism, and deep-rooted health disparities that exist in Black and other racial minority populations within the U.S. These factors are among many reasons for the COVID-19 vaccination rates in Black populations being below the national average at the time of the article’s publication in April 2021. Dr. Ferdinand, a longtime champion for addressing social determinants to health such as income, housing, education, and employment, aimed to shed light on the structural reasons for vaccination rate disparities in order to encourage members of racial minority populations to become vaccinatied against COVID-19.

Health Care in the Faith Setting?

The disproportionately high burden of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, stroke, and end-stage kidney disease in Black populations is especially seen in the South, where Dr. Ferdinand lives and works at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana.

In 2020, The National Institutes of Health awarded Tulane $7.6 million to pilot a five-year study, in which Dr. Ferdinand and colleagues place health workers in community churches to see if they can successfully treat hypertension and reduce the risk of heart disease within Black communities by meeting these individuals where they worship, instead of continuing to rely on a flawed system in which barriers to care prevent members of the Black community from accessing care in the clinic setting.

In an audio profile for National Public Radio (NPR)’s Morning Edition, Dr. Ferdinand gave a glimpse into the project one Sunday at St. Joseph the Worker Church in Marrero, Louisiana. The church will be one of at least four dozen churches across the greater New Orleans area to be included in the Tulane study.

"If you can see patients in a comfortable, community-based environment, that may be superior to having the patient come into the hospital clinic for services."

Listen to Dr. Ferdinand on NPR:

FRESH Trial Results at the 2022 AHA Scientific Sessions

The most powerful and prevalent risk factor for cardiovascular disease is hypertension. It is poorly controlled across all populations, but non-Hispanic Black and African American patient populations have alarmingly high rates of hypertension-related complications.

As one of the authors of Top-Line Results of The First-in-Class Aminopeptidase-A Inhibitor Firibastat in Treatment-Resistant Hypertension (FRESH) Study, Dr. Ferdinand presented findings at the American Heart Association (AHA) annual conference in Chicago in November 2022.

The FRESH trial investigated a new antihypertensive agent, firibistat, which inhibits aminopeptidase-A, which converts angiotensin II to angiotensin III in the brain. Although the FRESH trial was discontinued because the findings did not show a statistically significant lowering of blood pressure, Dr. Ferdinand was not discouraged, noting he’d continue seeking new tools to control blood pressure. 

"When you look at life expectancy and life itself, Black adults in the United States have a shorter life expectancy. It’s driven mainly by cardiovascular disease, and the number one risk factor for that disparity in cardiovascular disease is uncontrolled hypertension. So we need newer therapies if they're going to be well tolerated and effective to help lower blood pressure."

Watch The February 2023 CMHC Webinar Recording

  • https://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/epub/10.2105/AJPH.2020.306135
  • https://news.tulane.edu/pr/ferdinand-appointed-berenson-endowed-chair-cardiology
  •  https://www.ajmc.com/view/dr-keith-ferdinand-addresses-the-need-for-new-antihypertensive-agents-to-overcome-health-care-disparities
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