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. ...

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...

Managing your funding

Managing your funding

Managing your funding

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

2021 NSW CVRN Ministerial Awards for Cardiovascular Research

2021 NSW CVRN Ministerial Awards for Cardiovascular Research

Nominations are now open for the 2021 NSW Cardiovascular Research Network’s (CVRN) Ministerial Awards for Cardiovascular Research....

Our research stories

Our research stories

Our research stories

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

NSW Cardiovascular Research Network

NSW Cardiovascular Research Network

NSW Cardiovascular Research Network

Encouraging cardiovascular research excellence in NSW ...

3 Minute Research Competition Terms & Conditions

3 Minute Research Competition Terms & Conditions

Queensland Cardiovascular Research Network

Queensland Cardiovascular Research Network

Queensland Cardiovascular Research Network

QCVRN provides a framework to strengthen cardiovascular research in Queensland...

More Australians die of Heart Disease than any other cause.

More Australians die of Heart Disease than any other cause.

More Australians die of Heart Disease than any other cause.

And the heartache lasts a lifetime. But you can help the Heart Foundation fund life-saving research to keep more families together....

Heart Health Check Toolkit

Heart Health Check Toolkit

Research Directory

Research Directory

For Professionals: Coronary artery calcium scoring

For Professionals: Coronary artery calcium scoring

The National Heart Foundation of Australia Position Statement: Coronary artery calcium scoring for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease in Australia.¹...

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....

WEBINAR | Heart Health Checks: the critical role of the practice nurse

WEBINAR | Heart Health Checks: the critical role of the practice nurse

WEBINAR | Heart Health Checks: the critical role of the practice nurse

This webinar discusses the role of practice nurses in conducting heart health checks...

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples: Heart Health Projects

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples: Heart Health Projects

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples: Heart Health Projects

Projects aimed at improving the heart health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples ...

Moroccan chickpea tagine

Moroccan chickpea tagine

25-40 minutes
Serves 4

Heart procedures and devices

Heart procedures and devices

Heart procedures and devices

If you have a heart condition, your doctor may recommend treatment or procedures...

Heart Week

Heart Week

What is heart valve disease?

What is heart valve disease?

What is heart valve disease?

Heart valve disease means that your heart valve or valves don't open or close properly....

Pumpkin falafel wraps

Pumpkin falafel wraps

Pumpkin falafel wraps

10 minutes
Serves Serves 4 (as a main meal)

Heart Health Check Toolkit – Post-use evaluation survey

Heart Health Check Toolkit – Post-use evaluation survey

Sorting out your finances after a heart attack

Sorting out your finances after a heart attack

Sorting out your finances after a heart attack

Explore how to manage your financial concerns after a heart attack. ...

Lamb recipes

Lamb recipes

Lamb recipes

Find heart healthy lamb recipes....

Italian recipes

Italian recipes

Italian recipes

Find heart healthy Italian recipes....

Heart attack at 35: Knowing the signs and symptoms

Heart attack at 35: Knowing the signs and symptoms

Heart attack at 35: Knowing the signs and symptoms

David reflects on how his life changed when he had a heart attack at 35 and how he got back on track....

Workplace giving program

Workplace giving program

Workplace giving program

Workplace giving is a simple and tax effective way for employees to make regular donations to a cause they care about. ...

Our corporate partners

Our corporate partners

Our corporate partners

We value the support of all of our corporate partners....

Kids recipes

Kids recipes

Kids recipes

Find heart healthy kids recipes...

What is a cardiac arrest?

What is a cardiac arrest?

What is a cardiac arrest?

With immediate help a cardiac arrest can be survived. Learn how to save a life....

Automated Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD or AICD)

Automated Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD or AICD)

This is a device inserted into your chest to return abnormal heart rhythms to normal using electrical impulses. ...

The Heart Foundation Community

The Heart Foundation Community

The Heart Foundation Community

We need your opinion, experience and skills to help us improve the heart health of all Australians. ...

Applying for research funding with the Heart Foundation

Applying for research funding with the Heart Foundation

Applying for research funding with the Heart Foundation

Discover more about our various funding programs, requirements, and application dates now....

What is cardiac rehab?

What is cardiac rehab?

What is cardiac rehab?

Cardiac rehab is proven to keep you out of hospital and reduce your risk of death from heart conditions....

Types of physical activity

Types of physical activity

Types of physical activity

Nine out of 10 Australians could reduce the risk of heart disease by walking as little as 15 minutes more each day....

Heart Foundation delivers $17.2 million for cutting-edge heart research in a challenging year

Heart Foundation delivers $17.2 million for cutting-edge heart research in a challenging year

Heart Foundation delivers $17.2 million for cutting-edge heart research in a challenging year

Media Release 20 October 2020...

Absolute CVD risk charts

Absolute CVD risk charts

Absolute CVD risk charts provide a visual tool to calculate CVD risk for use in practice in Australia....

Feelings and emotions after a heart attack

Feelings and emotions after a heart attack

Feelings and emotions after a heart attack

This is a guide to how you might be feeling after a heart attack. ...

Coronary Artery Calcium Scoring

Coronary Artery Calcium Scoring

A coronary artery calcium score can be used following a Heart Health Check to estimate your risk of heart attack....