The “proverbial triple threat” was well renowned for her accomplishments, kindness, and vitality in addition to her enthusiasm.
Advanced heart disease and cardiac transplant physician and researcher Lauren Gray Gilstrap, MD, MPH (Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, Lebanon, NH), passed away on October 21, 2022, at the age of 38. Her hospital posted on Twitter to confirm her passing.
Gilstrap, who was renowned for both her intellectual ambition and her compassion, will be remembered for the effect she had on her coworkers, patients, and loved ones.
When he first encountered Gilstrap, Robert Yeh, MD (Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA), he described her as “a dynamo, a firecracker.” “She brought so much energy and enthusiasm to the team, on top of being the consummate clinician,” he said in a statement to TCTMD.
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She later rose to prominence as a leading researcher in health services and an authority on heart failure, and I had the honor of collaborating closely with her on several studies. She was one of the sweetest and most considerate women I’ve ever met, and we spoke frequently about her career and family over the years. It is difficult to put into words what a devastating loss it is.
Anu Lala, MD (Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY), recalling Gilstrap as a fellow, told TCTMD that “she defined what it meant to be a team player.” Lala was motivated by Gilstrap’s “straightforwardness, ambition, and authenticity” despite just being a few years her senior in training.
I thought she meant what she said. Additionally, Lala added: “I enjoyed working with her because of the fluidity that was present, which was: ‘Let’s get the job done. Let’s work together to complete the task. Even then, a spirit of benevolence was present.
Gilstrap was a member of the first group of fellows that Brigham and Women’s Hospital program director Donna Polk, MD, MPH (AGME), mentored. “An amazing person [and] a passionate teacher,” was how she remembered her.
She simply had a soft place for patients, and I believe we’ll never get the chance to fully understand how much she might have altered both our lives and that of her patients.
Gilstrap, according to Polk, was the kind of person who “seemed to be able to just do it all and always had a smile on her face while she was doing it.” Furthermore, she added, “She had this loud voice that you always knew she was there, and she was always a hundred percent there whenever she did.”
Among her many qualities, Polk said “her honesty, her compassion, and her patient advocacy” will be missed most of all.
The director of the Heart and Vascular Center at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, Mark Creager, MD, told TCTMD that he knew Gilstrap while she was a cardiology resident and that he “jumped at the chance” to persuade her to join his group in New Hampshire after following her professional path.
There are simply not enough adjectives to describe Lauren, he said. The proverbial triple threat—being a superb clinician, a superb educator, and a superb scientist—is often mentioned. She was everything of that and more.
Gilstrap was a “dynamic lecturer” who inspired her students and colleagues, a “consummate clinician” who could relate to all of her patients, and “a very thoughtful investigator” who was constantly looking for ways to improve patient care, according to Creager.
“Lauren was a shining light. You can’t say that about everyone. She was really someone whose light shone brightly, and it shined on all of us,” he said. “So many people had the opportunity and benefit of working closely with her. You always could feel her presence even before she was there. She was just such an expansive personality.”
Accomplishments and Research
Gilstrap was born in Marshall, Texas, on November 25, 1983. She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with honors and was the valedictorian of her high school class. She graduated from Harvard Medical School in 2010 and remained in Boston to finish fellowships in cardiovascular medicine, heart failure, and cardiac transplantation at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
She also completed her internal medicine residency at Massachusetts General Hospital. She also obtained her MPH from the Harvard School of Public Health during this time, as well as a master’s in healthcare policy from the Harvard Medical School.
In the Heart and Vascular Center at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, she joined the faculty in 2018 and in 2021 she was named the program head for advanced heart disease and transplant cardiology.
She also held the positions of associate professor of advanced heart disease and transplant cardiology at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth and assistant professor of health policy at The Dartmouth Institute. She was co-director of the cardiovascular critical care unit.
During the brief career of Gilstrap, she wrote nearly forty peer-reviewed papers. Her prolific research centered on enhancing the standard of clinical treatment for patients with heart failure, particularly elderly and rural patients.
She was in charge of several ongoing projects, including one that examined the relationship between Medicaid and the clinical outcomes for Blackheart failure patients and another that sought to enhance the treatment and outcomes for heart failure patients at her institution.
She had a strong academic background and was always praising her peers for their accomplishments, both in print and online. Gilstrap nevertheless had a sense of humor.
She joked on Twitter that her “parents finally believe I’m a real researcher” after a recent clinical study of hers about Alzheimer’s patients dying during the COVID-19 outbreak was covered in USA Today.
Gilstrap worked as a practice question writer for the American College of Cardiology (ACC) Heart Failure Self-Assessment Program in addition to her clinical and research responsibilities. In White River Junction, Vermont, she additionally volunteered at the Good Neighbor Health Clinic.
Gilstrap has received numerous honors for her teaching and lecturing from the Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center’s Department of Medicine as well as the Geisel School of Medicine in recent years.
Gilstrap was described as saying that her time spent working with patients has already had a profound impact on her in a 2010 article by The Marshall News Messenger, which was published after she graduated from medical school.
If my experience in the medical field has taught me anything, it’s that you shouldn’t let a day pass without telling your significant other that you love them, she added. “You should schedule time for your parents or grandparents if you’re fortunate enough to have living ones.”
Gilstrap is survived by her spouse Janet Milley, their kids David and Katelyn, their parents Rodney and Sherry Gilstrap, their brother Stephen and sister-in-law Meggie Gilstrap, and their nieces Abbie and Zoe.
A memorial service will be held at The Church of Christ at Dartmouth College (40 College Street in Hanover) on Saturday, October 29, 2022, at 10 AM.