I am
Q&A with Dr Jessica Orchard
heartfoundation.org.au|Helpline 13 11 12

Q&A with Dr Jessica Orchard

Cardiac screening of athletes: disparities and differences in electrocardiogram (ECG) interpretation criteria in under-represented populations

Dr Jessica Orchard is a Heart Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at The University of Sydney. She is also an Adjunct Senior Lecturer at the Centenary Institute and University of Sydney.

Dr Jessica Orchard’s PhD was awarded in November 2020. She also has a Master of Public Health, and Bachelor of Economics / Bachelor of Laws from the University of Sydney. Dr Orchard became a Fellow of the European Society of Cardiology in 2019. Her research aims to improve the quality of cardiac screening programs to prevent sudden cardiac death and catastrophic disability from stroke. Sudden cardiac death refers to a sudden death that is caused by a heart condition.

Dr Orchard presented work on an atrial fibrillation screening program (atrial fibrillation is a type of rhythm problem where the heart beats irregularly and often fast) at the Cardiac Society of Australia and New Zealand (CSANZ) conference in 2020. She won the CSANZ Prevention Prize for her presentation entitled: Atrial Fibrillation Screen, Management and Guideline Recommended Therapy (AF SMART II) in the rural primary care setting: cost-effective eHealth tools to support all stages of screening.  

What are you currently researching?

My project aims to improve the accuracy of cardiac screening programs to prevent sudden cardiac death in young athletes. I will specifically focus on populations that are under-represented in current guidelines, including female and Australian Indigenous athletes. I will collect new data from athletes of various ethnicities and female athletes across multiple sports to identify any differences in electrocardiogram (ECG) features.  An ECG is a test which involves attaching dots and leads to your skin to measure the heart’s electrical activity.

In addition, we know that screening and traditional monitors (such as Holter monitors) cannot capture all arrhythmias (faults in the heart’s electrical system, which affects the heart’s pumping rhythm). I will trial new smartphone ECGs (iECGs) to see if they can effectively capture arrhythmias occurring during high-intensity exercise which can be difficult to detect.  Accurate diagnosis is important to identify people at  high risk of sudden cardiac death while exercising.  

What difference will your research make to people’s cardiovascular health in Australia?

My research program aims to improve the quality and accuracy of athlete cardiac screening for under-represented populations (such as Australian Indigenous and female athletes). Our data will contribute to an improved understanding of the ECG features of these groups, which may lead to changes in guidelines and clinical practice. In addition, we will be the first to investigate innovative smartphone ECG technology use in elite sport to diagnose and monitor exercise-induced arrhythmias. This highly portable and affordable technology may be able to capture arrhythmias previously missed by traditional monitors.

The ultimate aim is to improve the quality of screening programs to reduce sudden cardiac death in athletes, independent of ethnicity or sex, thereby improving cardiovascular care and preventing premature cardiovascular deaths.

What motivated you to do your research?

Screening programs must be based on the best available evidence. Delivering a best practice program is central to maximising the benefits and minimising possible harms of screening, such as the risk of false positives (where a person’s screening test is positive but they do not actually have the condition) which may result in additional tests and anxiety.

My research aims to improve the quality of cardiac screening programs to prevent sudden cardiac death and catastrophic disability from stroke. These projects have used novel eHealth tools and have made best practice recommendations. They have considered legal and ethical responsibilities associated with cardiac screening among athletes such as whether screening is mandatory, consent issues, follow-up testing for abnormal screening results, and impacts on health insurance.

Do you have a message for Heart Foundation supporters?

Thank you for your generous support of the Heart Foundation. Your support allows me to continue my research into cardiac screening programs in athletes and the use of new technology to detect arrhythmias. The ultimate aim of my research is to improve the quality of screening programs to save lives by identifying athletes at high risk of sudden cardiac death.

You might also be interested in

The Heart Foundation Alumni Program

The Heart Foundation Alumni Program

The Heart Foundation Alumni Program

Stay connected with your research alumni community. ...

Research Directory

Research Directory

GLOBAL CARDIOVASCULAR RESEARCH FUNDERS FORUM

GLOBAL CARDIOVASCULAR RESEARCH FUNDERS FORUM

GLOBAL CARDIOVASCULAR RESEARCH FUNDERS FORUM

FACILITATING INTERNATIONAL CLINICAL TRIALS ...

2020 Strategic Grant Recipients

2020 Strategic Grant Recipients

Heart Foundation Research Award Recipients

Heart Foundation Research Award Recipients

Explore our research award recipients and projects...

Research funding programs

Research funding programs

Research funding programs

Understand the application process and requirements of our various funding programs....

2022 Collaboration and Exchange Award

2022 Collaboration and Exchange Award

Our research stories

Our research stories

Our research stories

We fund amazing researchers who have important stories to tell...

Managing your funding

Managing your funding

Managing your funding

Resources to help manage your grant, scholarship or fellowship....

2022 Future Leader Fellowship

2022 Future Leader Fellowship

Future Leader Fellows are emerging leaders – the best and brightest in cardiovascular research....

Environment, climate change and heart health

Environment, climate change and heart health

Environment, climate change and heart health

Information on how air pollution, heatwaves and bushfires can impact heart health, and what you can do to look after yourself. ...

Heart Age Calculator

Heart Age Calculator

Heart Age Calculator

Could you be at risk of heart disease? Get your estimated heart age now....

Heart Health Check Toolkit

Heart Health Check Toolkit

Building physical activity into urban planning and design

Building physical activity into urban planning and design

Building physical activity into urban planning and design

Resources available for built environment professionals to help guide in the development of active outdoor and indoor spaces....

Remember a loved one with a tribute

Remember a loved one with a tribute

Remember a loved one with a tribute

Honour the life of a loved one with a donation to the Heart Foundation. Your donation offers hope for Australian hearts....

Sit less, move more

Sit less, move more

Sit less, move more

You may be surprised to know that on average, adults sit for nine hours a day....

Support after a heart attack

Support after a heart attack

Support after a heart attack

Many different thoughts may go through your head after a heart attack and you may be presented with complicated medical info. Know where to get support. ...

Leaving a gift in your Will: A lasting legacy

Leaving a gift in your Will: A lasting legacy

Leaving a gift in your Will: A lasting legacy

One of the most powerful ways to help support a future without heart disease is to include a gift to the Heart Foundation in your Will...

Atrial Fibrillation (AF) clinical resources

Atrial Fibrillation (AF) clinical resources

Resources and clinical information for health professionals...

Supporting Young Hearts Program

Supporting Young Hearts Program

Information and resources for health professionals who are treating patients between 18 - 40 years of age....

Mexican spice blend

Mexican spice blend

Mexican spice blend

5 minutes

Raffles & Lotteries

Raffles & Lotteries

Raffles & Lotteries

Give yourself a chance to win up to $25,000* while helping the Heart Foundation to raise essential funds for heart research....

Amie Frydenberg named as Heart Foundation Walking ambassador

Amie Frydenberg named as Heart Foundation Walking ambassador

Amie Frydenberg named as Heart Foundation Walking ambassador

7 November 2021...

What is a healthy body weight?

What is a healthy body weight?

What is a healthy body weight?

Find out what a healthy body weight is and the steps you can take to achieve it. ...

Returning to work after a heart attack

Returning to work after a heart attack

Returning to work after a heart attack

Discover how to plan for your return to work....

Meatloaf

Meatloaf

40-50 minutes
Serves 6

What is plant-based eating

What is plant-based eating

What is plant-based eating

Learn about plant-based eating and its impact on heart health ...

Philanthropic investments

Philanthropic investments

Philanthropic investments

Making philanthropic investments through the Heart Foundation can transform Australians’ health. ...

Heart Bypass Surgery

Heart Bypass Surgery

Coronary bypass surgery is a common procedure that can dramatically improve the health of your heart. ...

How your heart works

How your heart works

How your heart works

Your heart is a muscle that pumps blood to all parts of your body. The blood gives your body the oxygen and nourishment it needs to work properly. ...

Chicken caprese pizza

Chicken caprese pizza

Chicken caprese pizza

20 minutes
Serves 2 (1 pizza per serve)

Dessert recipes

Dessert recipes

Dessert recipes

Find heart healthy dessert recipes....

Thai chicken lettuce cups

Thai chicken lettuce cups

Thai chicken lettuce cups

10 minutes
Serves 2

Become a corporate partner

Become a corporate partner

Become a corporate partner

Partner with us to help us fight for Australian hearts....

Seafood recipes

Seafood recipes

Seafood recipes

Find heart healthy seafood recipes...

WEBINAR | Navigating the latest updates on CVD prevention

WEBINAR | Navigating the latest updates on CVD prevention

Our research stories

Our research stories

Our research stories

We fund amazing researchers who have important stories to tell...

What is atrial fibrillation?

What is atrial fibrillation?

What is atrial fibrillation?

Atrial fibrillation is a type of arrhythmia where your heart beats irregularly and fast....

Ranch burger bowls

Ranch burger bowls

Ranch burger bowls

20 minutes
Serves 4

Aboriginal heart health

Aboriginal heart health

Aboriginal heart health

Visit the St Vincents Hospital NSW and Heart Foundation Aboriginal heart health website for more information...