Dervilla McCann '77 studies local genetic disorder

Lewiston cardiologist Dervilla McCann '77 is studying a genetic disorder that has plagued French Canadians in Maine since many came to the area in the late 1800s.

McCann's research focuses on why the state's Franco-American population doesn't share the "French Paradox" with the French in France. The paradox refers to the puzzling fact that European French --with a diet famously high in fat and cholesterol-- don't have a high incidence of heart disease. Franco-Americans, on the other hand, do suffer from a high rate of heart disease, says McCann. She attributes the differenceŬto genetic factors as well as lifestyle choices. 

Familial Hypercholesterolemia (FH) is an example of one type of genetic disorder which can cause a person's cholesterol level to rise alarmingly quickly and early in life, McCann says. Quebec City descendants comprise much of the population in Lewiston-Auburn, home to an unusually high percentage of patients with FH and heart disease. With intermarriage rates high within Franco-American and French Canadian families in the area, the gene has persisted through the generations. However, McCann says that the best way to combat heart disease is by making healthy choices, and living a lifestyle that excludes smoking, poor eating habits and inactivity.

Former director of the coronary care unit at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., where she served as a physician to former President Clinton, McCann returned to Maine in 1996. A partner with Androscoggin Cardiology Associates, she says she returned to Lewiston to be close to her family and to raise her children in Maine. 

According to McCann, her liberal arts education played a big part in her future successes. "Dance was the most important element of my education at Bates," she says. I learned the discipline, commitment and focus that I really needed." 

taken from:  Faces at Bates, Archives, http://www.bates.edu/faces-archive.xml
For more info on other Franco-American Health Related info, go to:  http://www.fawi.net/healthrelated.html
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