Skip to main content

Elizabeth M. McNally receives Northwestern’s 2023 Walder Award

Scientist works to uncover genetics of inherited human diseases

Dr. Elizabeth M. McNally, director of Northwestern’s Center for Genetic Medicine and the Elizabeth J. Ward Professor of Genetic Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, has received the 22nd annual Martin E. and Gertrude G. Walder Award for Research Excellence.

Elizabeth M. McNally
Elizabeth M. McNally

The award, which comes with a $20,000 grant from the Office of the Provost, recognizes McNally’s pivotal research into more effective methods for genetic monitoring and defining the genetic mechanisms that cause inherited cardiovascular and neuromuscular disorders. As director of the Center for Genetic Medicine, McNally leads her team in advancing understandings of how genetics play into human disease and how this information can be used to improve patient decision-making and therapies.

“Dr. McNally’s research exists on the cutting edge of work that is improving the quality of human life,” Provost Kathleen Hagerty said. “I am proud to present Dr. McNally with this award and grateful for her contributions to Northwestern’s scholarship and to society.”

McNally is both a physician and scientist and attempts to bring the benefits of research discovery to the practice of medicine. She is a professor of genetic medicine at Feinberg, as well as a professor of medicine in the division of cardiology and of biochemistry and molecular genetics. She is the first woman to serve as editor-in-chief of the Journal of Clinical Investigation (JCI).

“Receiving the Walder award is very special to me,” McNally said. “Because the award is given for research accomplishments, it is really an acknowledgement for our whole research team and all the wonderful scientists I have the privilege of working with. Our work has identified new genes and mechanisms of diseases that affect heart and muscle. It’s an especially gratifying time to be in this field since we are seeing genetic treatments making their way to change patients’ lives, and this transformation motivates us all to do more.”  

McNally studies a broad range of human diseases including heart failure, cardiomyopathy, muscular dystrophy, arrhythmias and aortic aneurysms. By defining genetic mutations that cause disorders in individuals, McNally has developed new models for disorders that inform new therapies, including genetic correction and gene editing.

McNally also leads the Cardiovascular Genetics program at the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute of Northwestern, which provides integrated genetic assessment with clinical cardiovascular care to better identify disease risks. By using genetic information for diagnosis and risk reduction, the program supports better health across the lifespan.

She is the author of more than 300 peer-reviewed publications that have appeared in leading journals including Nature, JAMA Cardiology, the Journal of Genetic Medicine and the Journal of the American Heart Association. 

The Walder Award was established in 2002 by alumnus Dr. Joseph A. Walder MD ’75 Ph.D. ’78 who founded a company that supplies synthetic DNA for research and clinical applications. The award recognizes and supports the work of one Northwestern faculty member each year.

In addition to the Walder Award, McNally has earned other prestigious prizes including a 2020 medal of honor and 2021 distinguished scientist award from the American Heart Association Council on Genomics and Precision Medicine, and is a member of the National Academy of Medicine and the American Association of Arts and Sciences. She also serves as president of the Association of American Physicians and chair of the Basic Cardiovascular Sciences Council at the American Heart Association.