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Lara Kovell, MD

Lara Kovell

By Merin C. MacDonald | Date published: February 20, 2024

February Researcher Spotlight: Lara Kovell, MD

In this month’s Researcher Spotlight, we highlight the work of Lara Kovell, MD, a physician-scientist and associate professor of medicine in the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, the inaugural director of the Women’s Pregnancy and Heart Disease Clinic at UMass Memorial Health, and director of residency research and the Internal Medicine Residency Research Track at UMass Chan Medical School. She also holds a secondary appointment in Obstetrics and Gynecology.  

 Dr. Kovell’s work focuses on implementing evidence-based interventions, grounded in culturally relevant practices, to prevent and treat cardiovascular disease in women. Specifically, the long-term goal of her research is to improve care and outcomes for pregnant women with hypertension. Her research has included the development, implementation, and evaluation of technology-based interventions that promote self-management for chronic diseases and establishing healthy habits. Dr. Kovell is currently a site principal investigator for the Rehabilitation at Home Using Mobile Health in Older Adults After Hospitalization for Ischemic Heart Disease (RESILIENT) trial, funded by the NIH’s National Institute on Aging. RESILIENT is evaluating virtual cardiac rehabilitation for older adults to increase physical activity and home blood pressure monitoring, and Dr. Kovell’s team recruited over 100 of the study’s 400 participants. While the trial results will not be released until the fall, there have been some incredible success stories, with dramatic shifts in lifestyle habits including healthy weight loss and creating long-term exercise routines through personal coaching. 

Dr. Kovell was also a co-investigator in a digital health intervention, led by Dr. Paula Gardiner of Family Medicine and Community Health, that used group-based medical care to improve adherence to home blood pressure monitoring in adults with hypertension. The intervention resulted in a 3.5-fold increase in home blood pressure monitoring within the study group over 8 weeks. This study led to her involvement in several community-based participatory research partnerships, including a patient advisory group that she established to oversee the design of a culturally relevant intervention to improve hypertension self-care in pregnancy. “We have worked with many incredible women in the Worcester community, who have been willing to share their own stories about their own devastating complications related to hypertension and preeclampsia,” said Dr. Kovell. Their selfless dedication to support others impacted by hypertension and our research inspires and fuels me to continue this work to improve the care of hypertension in pregnancy.  

Dr. Kovell is currently a co-investigator on the multi-center PCORI award, Community-Based, Family-Centered, Trauma-Informed Approach to Timely Detection Management of Early Postpartum Hypertension, where she and her co-investigators are studying remote monitoring interventions utilizing advanced practice providers and community health workers for postpartum women from disadvantaged backgrounds. Additionally, she and her collaborators are currently seeking to identify how health system factors shape the transition to primary care for women with hypertensive disorders during pregnancy and postpartum. Dr. Kovell’s work has led to over 40 publications thus far.   

Beyond her research, Dr. Kovell is a dedicated mentor to students, residents, fellows, and early-career faculty, many of whom have published their findings, presented at national and international conferences, received research awards, and gone on to pursue positions in academic medicine. Her dedication to mentorship inspired her to develop a new research track for the Internal Medicine Residency, which launched in 2022. Dr. Kovell currently serves as director for the Internal Medicine Residency Research Track.    

In her role as the inaugural director of the Women’s Pregnancy and Heart Disease Clinic, Dr. Kovell established a collaboration with Obstetrics and Gynecology to provide comprehensive cardiovascular care for pregnant individuals. This clinic was established in the Maternal Fetal Medicine clinic space at the Memorial campus, in recognition of the need for multidisciplinary care as more pregnancies are impacted by pre-existing cardiovascular disease and pregnancy often uncovers new cardiac diagnoses.  

Dr. Kovell is a Pittsburgh native and completed her medical degree, Internal Medicine residency, and fellowships in Cardiology and Advanced Echocardiography at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. She joined the faculty at UMass Chan/UMMH in 2017.  

We thank Dr. Kovell for her contributions as a physician-scientist and mentor in the Department of Medicine!