UNC Cardiology News

Sidney Smith awarded WHF Lifetime Achievement Award

The award was presented August 31 at the World Congress of Cardiology in Paris.
Sidney Smith awarded WHF Lifetime Achievement Award click to enlarge Sidney C. Smith Jr., MD

World Heart Federation Past President Dr. Sidney Smith was presented with the WHF Lifetime Achievement Award today at the opening of ESC Congress 2019 together with the World Congress of Cardiology, for his remarkable contribution to the mission of the World Heart Federation and the entire CVD community over the entirety of his illustrious career.

Sidney C. Smith, Jr., MD, is professor of medicine in the division of cardiology at the UNC School of Medicine. He received medical degree from Yale University and completed his medical residency, and cardiology fellowship at Peter Bent Brigham (now Brigham and Women’s) Hospital/Harvard Medical School.

He is a past president of both the World Heart Federation and the American Heart Association, and is a Fellow in several associations including the AHA, European Society of Cardiology, and Royal Society of Medicine, a Master fellow of the ACC and is an Honorary International Fellow of the Japanese Circulation Society and the Chilean Society of Cardiology and Cardiovascular Surgery. He has received the AHA’s Physician of the Year Award, Distinguished National Leadership Award, Gold Heart Award, Eugene Drake Award, Joseph Stokes Award in Preventive Cardiology, Council of Clinical Cardiology Distinguished Achievement Award, Chairman’s Award, the James Herrick Distinguished Clinician Award, and the Ron Haddock International Impact Award as well as the Brazilian Cardiology Society International Teaching Award. Dr. Smith is the recipient of the NHLBI/NIH Award of Special
Recognition.

Dr. Smith is an author or coauthor on more than 400 published papers and chapters and and has served or currently serves on the editorial boards for the Journal of Cardiovascular Medicine, Journal of Clinical and Experimental Cardiology, Journal of the American College of Cardiology, Circulation and JAMA Cardiology. He continues his clinical practice in Cardiology at UNC. Yearly since 1998 Dr. Smith has been elected to Best Doctors in America.

UNC Cardiology at ACC 2019

30 events feature UNC Cardiology faculty and fellows at this year's American College of Cardiology Scientific Sessions. Access the full list here.

UNC cardiologists perform X-ray free atrial fibrillation ablation

On February 15, UNC cardiologists performed an X-ray free atrial fibrillation ablation, a first for UNC. The procedure was performed by Dr. Faisal Syed, Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Cardiology, and clinical cardiac electrophysiology fellow Dr. Greg Harris. X-ray free atrial fibrillation ablation is available in only a limited number of medical centers regionally.
UNC cardiologists perform X-ray free atrial fibrillation ablation click to enlarge Dr. Faisal Syed

Catheter ablation of atrial fibrillation is a minimally invasive procedure which provides considerable symptomatic benefit for a large number of patients, and in some, such as those with heart failure, also improves cardiac function when compared to medical therapy alone. Traditionally such ablation procedures have been reliant on X-Ray fluoroscopy to visualize the catheters within the body and heart. The availability of modern electroanatomical mapping systems and intracardiac ultrasound has resulted in a marked reduction in rates of X-ray use over the years. This is important as X-rays, although used safely in health care settings, still carry potential risk of injury both to patients and staff and require constant monitoring. X-ray use also heavily dictates lab design and operation, and requires operators to wear heavy leaded protective equipment which carries risk of musculoskeletal injury with long term use. The procedure on Feb. 15 was the first time UNC physicians performed the procedure start to finish without any X-ray use, thanks to the high quality mapping and ultrasound equipment UNC has available.

Gratitude for UNC's Heart Failure team

Vital Signs features an article by Qing Zhang, PhD, associate professor in the department of pathology and laboratory medicine, on the lifesaving care his wife Mingjie received. Minjie required multiple surgeries, extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), as well as other treatments after the flu exacerbated an underlying heart condition, causing her heart function to fail. Dr. Zhang thanks the large team of UNC providers involved, including her surgeons, heart failure doctors, infectious disease doctors, and others. Dr. Zhang notes that Life often takes unexpected turns, you never know what expect around the next curve. I am truly thankful that I am still able to hold on to my wife, my children and my family. In Mingjie's room at the UNC hospital, there is a white board with the phrase, "Getting to Know You." On it we wrote, "She was the sickest one in the hospital and is glad she has made it." Read the full article here.

Raising awareness about heart disease in younger women

Raising awareness about heart disease in younger women click to enlarge Melissa Caughey, PhD

Dr. Melissa Caughey of UNC Cardiology is interviewed by Self magazine about her research showing increasing rates of heart attack in women between the ages of 35 and 54. The research study, Twenty Year Trends and Sex Differences in Young Adults Hospitalized with Acute Myocardial Infarction: The ARIC Community Surveillance Study. was recently published in Circulation.

Qian & Arora recognized as Health Care Heroes

Associate professor of pathology and laboratory medicine and associate director of McAllister Heart Institute Li Qian, PhD and Cardiology fellow Sameer Arora, MD have been selected by Triangle Business Journal as 2019 Health Care Heroes. The award rewards accomplishments in all areas of medicine.

Media attention for research on heart attacks in the young

Research led by cardiology fellow Dr. Sameer Arora is garnering media attention. The paper, Twenty Year Trends and Sex Differences in Young Adults Hospitalized with Acute Myocardial Infarction: The ARIC Community Surveillance Study, found an increasing rate of heart attack in the population between ages 35 and 54. The paper was cited in a New York Times opinion piece by a young heart attack victim. Dr. Arora was also interviewed by NPR program The State of Things about his research showing higher rates of heart attack  in people under the the age of 55. Listen to the streaming audio.

Qian Receives $1.8-million NIH grant to study human cardiomyocytes

Li Qian, PhD, associate professor of pathology and laboratory medicine, associate director of UNC’s McAllister Heart Institute, has been awarded a $1.8-million research grant from the NIH starting January 1st, 2019 to understand the molecular mechanisms underlying cell fate determination of human cardiomyocytes.
Qian Receives $1.8-million NIH grant to study human cardiomyocytes click to enlarge Grant recipient Li Qian, PhD

Li Qian, PhD, associate professor of pathology, associate director of McAllister Heart Institute, has received a $1.8-million R01 grant from the NIH/NHLBI to support Qian lab’s continued efforts in heart research. Dr. Qian’s years of work in understanding the genetic and epigenetic control of cardiomyocyte specification and differentiation has led to the discovery of several innovative approaches for heart repair, including the cardiac reprogramming approach that has opened a new field of study and represents a promising alternative approach to cardiac regeneration. Her lab’s work has also significantly advanced the basic understanding of cell plasticity, cell identity and cell fate determination.

With this new research funding, her team will move onto studying human cardiac cells to understand the molecular pathways governing the faithful cell differentiation and transdifferentiation among various cell types in the human heart. In this effort, Qian lab will combine the utilization of single cell platforms, various omics approaches, and cutting-edge molecular assays to decipher the function of key regulators that have the potential to be clinically applied on a significant population in the US who suffers from heart disease.

UNC Researcher Finds Gender Disparities in Admissions, Treatment for Heart Attack Patients, Earns Nomination for AHA Award

Sameer Arora, MD, a UNC School of Medicine cardiology fellow, was nominated for the Elizabeth Barrett-Connor Research Award for Young Investigators in Training for his study showing young women are having proportionally more heart attacks than young men.
UNC Researcher Finds Gender Disparities in Admissions, Treatment for Heart Attack Patients, Earns Nomination for AHA Award click to enlarge Sameer Arora, MD

Contact: Carleigh Gabryel, 919-864-0580, carleigh.gabryel@unchealth.unc.edu

November 15, 2018

CHICAGO, IL – A new study published in the American Heart Association (AHA) journal, Circulation, shows that that the dramatic decrease in mortality from heart attack in recent decades is not evident in younger age groups, especially younger women. The study, led by UNC School of Medicine cardiology fellow and preventive medicine resident Sameer Arora, MD, looked at data collected by the Atherosclerosis Risk in Community (ARIC) study, a hospital surveillance of acute myocardial infarction (AMI) in patients aged 35-74 years old in four U.S. cities. Analysis for Arora’s study was limited to nearly 9,000 patients aged 35-54 years old from 1995 to 2014.

The overall incident of AMI, or heart attack, has decreased in recent decades in the U.S. However, when looking specifically at the 35-54 year-old age group, Arora and his colleagues discovered that this age group had an increase in heart attacks, and women had the largest increase of annual hospital admission due to heart attack. The proportion of heart attacks attributable to young women increased from 21 to 31 percent over 19 years.

“Heart attacks are traditionally considered an older man’s disease,” said Arora. “But we discovered that the proportion overall is shifting towards younger women. Young women are catching up to young men in heart attack incidence.”

Arora also found that young women are not experiencing the same treatment as young men. Women were less likely to receive guideline-based AMI treatment, such as lipid-lowering therapies, non-aspirin antiplatelets, beta blockers, coronary angiography, and coronary revascularization. Women were also more likely than men in this age group to experience comorbidities, such as hypertension, diabetes, and chronic kidney disease.

“Young women are not being treated the same way as young men,” Arora said. “This indicates a perception problem; physicians possibly are not believing that heart attack is as big of an issue for women. There should be a different set of treatment guidelines for women, and their unique risk factors should be recognized as well.”

The study’s senior author is Melissa Caughey, PhD, research instructor of medicine in the division of cardiology, who also served as Arora’s faculty mentor. UNC’s Rick Stouffer, MD, chief of cardiology, along with Wayne Rosamond, PhD, and Anna Kucharska-Newton, MPH, PhD, both professors in the department of epidemiology in the Gillings Schools of Global Public Health, were also authors.

The publication of Arora’s study coincided with his presentation of the findings at the American Heart Association (AHA) Scientific Sessions in Chicago this past weekend. Arora presented his research during an oral abstract competition as part of his nomination for the Elizabeth Barrett-Connor Research Award for Young Investigators in Training. Arora was one of five nominees for the prestigious award.

Qian Appointed Associate Director of McAllister Heart Institute

Li Qian, PhD, associate professor of pathology and laboratory medicine, has been named the associate director of McAllister Heart Institute effective October 1, 2018.
Qian Appointed Associate Director of McAllister Heart Institute click to enlarge Li Qian, PhD

Li Qian, PhD, associate professor of pathology and laboratory medicine, will serve as the associate director of the McAllister Heart Institute (MHI), a role that will allow her to work closely with Victoria Bautch, PhD, and Rick Stouffer, MD, co-directors of MHI, to support the basic cardiovascular and translational research efforts of the institute.

Dr. Qian came to the UNC School of Medicine in 2012 after earning her doctorate in molecular, cellular, and developmental biology in 2007 from the University of Michigan, and doing postdoctoral work in cardiovascular and stem cell biology at he Gladstone Institute at the University of California, San Francisco.

Dr. Qian’s contributions to the field of cardiovascular research and regenerative medicine have been recognized by numerous honors and awards, including the prestigious American Heart Association Katz Prize for Basic Research and the Boyalife Prize in Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine from Science/AAAS.

Qian is also a passionate teacher and mentor who won the “Outstanding Mentor Award” at UNC last year, becoming the youngest awardee at UNC-Chapel Hill. With her new leadership role, Qian will continue to bring her enthusiasm and energy to help lead MHI as an internationally renowned cardiovascular center.  

Read more here about Dr. Qian's research and what inspired her to pursue a career in biomedical research.

UNC Cardiology at AHA 2018

Research on Racial Disparities in Heart Attack Treatment featured by AHA, UNC

The study by Arora et al. published in the Journal of the American Heart Association by Arora et al. showing disparities in the care given to black and white patients seeking treatment for a type of heart attack called NSTEMI (Non-ST-elevation myocardial infarction) receives press attention. Please read the features in AHA Daily News and the UNC Daily Tarheel.

$2.8-million NIH Funding for Griffith Lab

Boyce Griffith, PhD, Associate Professor of Mathematics, member of the McAllister Heart Institute, and Adjunct Faculty in the Departments of Applied Physical Sciences and Biomedical Engineering, has received a $2.8-million award from the National Institutes of Health for a new 5-year project, Multiscale Modeling of Clotting Risk in Atrial Fibrillation. This is a multi-institutional project led by UNC but also involving Duke and the University of Utah. UNC co-investigators include John Vavalle, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Cardiology. Read more here.

UNC Researchers Find Racial Disparities in Treatment for Heart Attack Patients

Sameer Arora, MD, a UNC School of Medicine cardiology fellow, led a study reviewing hospitalizations for a certain type of heart attack that occurred over a 15-year period and found consistent differences in the treatment of black and white patients.
UNC Researchers Find Racial Disparities in Treatment for Heart Attack Patients click to enlarge Dr. Sameer Arora

Contact: Carleigh Gabryel, 919-864-0580, carleigh.gabryel@unchealth.unc.edu

 September 20, 2018

CHAPEL HILL, NC – A new study published today in the Journal of the American Heart Association shows disparities between the care given to black and white patients seeking treatment for a type of heart attack called NSTEMI (Non-ST-elevation myocardial infarction). Researchers found that black patients were less likely than white patients to receive aggressive treatment, or to be given certain types of medications commonly prescribed under current treatment guidelines. Racial differences in NSTEMI management have previously been reported, but researchers wanted to learn whether these disparities have been improved over time. They found there has been no substantial improvement in the disparities over the past 15 years.

Cardiology fellow Sameer Arora, MD, at the UNC School of Medicine and colleagues looked at data collected by the Atherosclerosis Risk in Community (ARIC) study, which included medical treatment records of nearly 18,000 weighted hospitalizations between 2000 and 2014. The researchers found that black patients were 29 percent less likely to get an angiogram, and 45 percent less likely to undergo more aggressive procedures like bypass surgery or angioplasty.

“It’s worrisome that we have differences in treatment in this day and age, and it’s even more concerning that we really have not seen a narrowing of these disparities over time,” said Arora.

Arora says one factor that may contribute to the difference in treatment is that black patients were more likely to have comorbidities — chronic illnesses such as diabetes or kidney disease — that made them higher-risk patients. The presence of comorbidities reduces the likelihood that a physician would want to pursue an aggressive treatment that could put the patient at further risk. However, Arora says that factor does not explain why black patients were less likely to be put on medications like aspirin, which are low-risk and part of treatment guidelines for heart attack patients.

“There are obviously more factors leading to these disparities, and possible inherent bias by physicians can’t be ruled out,” Arora said. “This study shows that a multi-faceted approach is needed to begin changing the way black patients receive treatment.”

Arora also says more focused efforts are needed on prevention to reduce comorbidities for black patients. The study, co-authored by UNC’s George Stouffer, MD, chief of the division of cardiology, and cardiovascular epidemiologist Melissa Caughey, PhD, suggests the need for population-based strategies including more outreach within communities to improve physical activity, diet, and smoking habits.

Transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) associated with shorter hospital stay, more frequent discharge to home

In a new study, John Vavalle, MD, and colleagues, found that TAVR may lead to improved patient outcomes and lower health care costs.
Transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) associated with shorter hospital stay, more frequent discharge to home click to enlarge John P. Vavalle, MD, assistant professor and medical director of the UNC Structural Heart Disease Program, is the study’s corresponding author.
Transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) associated with shorter hospital stay, more frequent discharge to home click to enlarge Sameer Arora, MD, is the study's first author.

Media contact:  Tom Hughes, 984-974-1151,  

September 14, 2018

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – For many years, surgical aortic valve replacement (SAVR) has been considered the standard of care for older adults with aortic stenosis. In recent years, transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) has increasingly gained acceptance as a less-invasive treatment option.

But how does TAVR compare to SAVR when it comes to the metrics of average length of stay (LOS) in the hospital and discharge to home versus discharge to a skilled nursing facility? A new study led by researchers in the UNC School of Medicine’s division of cardiology and published Sept. 14 in Circulation: Cardiovascular Interventions seeks to answer that question.

The study authors analyzed hospitalizations data from the National Inpatient Sample (NIS) database for more than 13,000 adults aged 50 or older who underwent either TAVR or SAVR between 2012 and 2015. They found that the average length of stay declined among both groups of patients, but there was a significantly greater reduction among TAVR patients. 

In addition, they found that during the course of the study, the percentage of TAVR patients who were being discharged to home/home health care increased from 67.7 percent to 77.4 percent, the percentage of TAVR patients who were being transferred to skilled nursing facilities decreased from 27.1 percent to 20.7 percent, and the in-hospital mortality of TAVR patients decreased from 4.2 percent to 1.6 percent.

Overall, patients who underwent TAVR had a significantly shorter length of stay and were significantly less likely to be transferred to a skilling nursing facility compared to patients who underwent SAVR.

“From 2012 to 2015, there was substantial decrease in LOS and an increase in the proportion of home discharges during the same time period among patients undergoing TAVR. In addition, high-risk patients had a significantly shorter LOS when undergoing TAVR, were more likely to be discharged home, and were less likely to be discharged to a skilled nursing facility, compared to if they had undergone SAVR,” the study concludes.

John P. Vavalle, MD, assistant professor and medical director of the UNC Structural Heart Disease Program, is the study’s corresponding author.

First author of the study is Sameer Arora, MD, a UNC Cardiology fellow. Co-authors are Paula D. Strassle, MSPH; Dhaval Kolte, MD, PhD; Cassandra J. Ramm, MSN, AGNP; Kristine Falk, MD; Godly Jack, MD; Thomas G. Caranasos, MD; Matthew A. Cavender, MD, MPH; and Joseph S. Rossi, MD.

Dr. Sameer Arora receives recognition for research excellence

Dr. Sameer Arora receives recognition for research excellence click to enlarge Cardiology fellow Sameer Arora, MD

Congratulations to Cardiology fellow Dr. Sameer Arora who has been selected as a finalist for the 2018 Elizabeth Barrett-Connor Research Award for Young Investigators in Training. This highly selective award recognizes excellence in research related to cardiovascular function and diseases by early career investigators; finalists will present their research at the 2018 Scientific Sessions of the American Heart Association. Dr. Arora thanks Cardiology Division Chief Dr. Rick Stouffer, Dr. John Vavalle, and Dr. Wayne Rosamond for their continued mentorship.

Stories to Save Lives

Dr. Ross Simpson was interviewed on the NPR program the State of Things to discuss Stories to Save Lives, his collaboration with the Southern Oral History Program. Also interviewed is Prof. Rachel Seidman, director of the Southern Oral History Program and adjunct assistant professor of history and women's and gender studies at UNC-Chapel Hill. Listen to the interview.

High impact award for Cardiology research

Transcatheter Versus Surgical Aortic Valve Replacement in Patients with Lower Surgical Risk Scores: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Early Outcomes is the winner of the journal Heart, Lung and Circulation's 2018 High Impact Award (Original Research, citations). Dr. Sameer Arora, UNC Cardiology fellow, is the lead author on this paper, which reviewed studies comparing transcatheter and surgical aortic valve replacement in the lower surgical risk population, finding that the two approaches appear to be comparable in short term outcomes. This paper was also a finalist for the journal’s Best Review Prize 2018.

Dr. Rose-Jones named Director of the Training Program in Cardiovascular Disease

Dr. Lisa Rose-Jones has been named Director of the Training Program in Cardiovascular Disease. Dr. Rose-Jones has been the program's Associate Director since 2016. Dr. John Vavalle will become the Associate Program Director.

Dr. Rose-Jones is a member of the American College of Cardiology Cardiovascular Training Section Leadership Council and of the UNC Academy of Educators. She has been honored with a distinguished UNC Whitehead Medical Society's Excellence in Teaching Award. In addition to fellowship education, she spends half of a day each week as a tutor in the Patient Centered Care (PCC) course with preclinical medical students and as co-Director of the MS1 Cardiovascular Block.

Antoniak awarded $1.9-million grant from NIH-NHLBI

Silvio Antoniak, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and Member of the McAllister Heart Institute, was awarded a $1.9-million, five-year grant from the NIH-NHLBI to investigate the potential therapeutic approach in inhibiting the coagulation factor Xa or PAR2 in viral myocarditis and H1N1 influenza A virus infection. Read more here.

Jonas publishes two JAMA Evidence Reports on ECG Cardiac Screenings

Dan Jonas, MD, MPH, associate professor of medicine and deputy director for research at the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research, found that using electrocardiography in screening asymptomatic adults for cardiovascular disease may cause more harm than good.
Jonas publishes two JAMA Evidence Reports on ECG Cardiac Screenings click to enlarge Dan Jonas, MD, MPH
Jonas publishes two JAMA Evidence Reports on ECG Cardiac Screenings click to enlarge Gary Asher, MD, MPH

August 7, 2018

Media Contact: Jamie Williams, jamie.williams@unchealth.unc.edu, 984-974-1149

In a paper published in JAMA earlier this summer, Jonas and Gary Asher, MD, MPH, of the Department of Family Medicine, evaluated the effectiveness of screening asymptomatic adults for cardiovascular disease risk with resting or exercise electrocardiography (ECG), a test that measures electrical changes in your heart. Despite a focus on high-risk populations with diabetes, clinical trials found no improvement in health outcomes. In some cases, the screenings actually led to harm to the patient in the form of additional unnecessary tests, arrhythmias, cardiovascular events, injuries, anxiety, labeling and other issues.

“Screening for cardiovascular disease risk with ECG in asymptomatic, low-risk adults is likely more harmful than beneficial,” Jonas said.

The US Preventative Services Task Force used Jonas and Asher’s evidence report to update its recommendations on screening for cardiovascular disease risk, recommending against screening low-risk adults with ECG.

Today, Jonas and collaborators from the RTI-UNC Evidence Based Practice Center published a second JAMA Evidence Report, this time on the effectiveness of using ECG to screen asymptomatic adults for atrial fibrillation.

Their analysis found that screening with ECG can detect more new cases of atrial fibrillation than no screening, but ECG screening has not been shown to be more effective than screening focused on using pulse palpitation to detect atrial fibrillation in older adults.

“The take home message from this paper is that we need more research to determine whether health outcomes are improved by screening for atrial fibrillation with ECG in asymptomatic, older adults,” Jonas said.

Qian receives Transformational Project Award from American Heart Association

Li Qian, PhD, Associate Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, member of UNC McAllister Heart Institute, has received the inaugural Transformational Project Award from the American Heart Association. This award aims to “support highly innovative, high-impact projects that build on work in progress that could ultimately lead to critical discoveries or major advancements that will accelerate the field of cardiovascular and stroke research.”
Qian receives Transformational Project Award from American Heart Association click to enlarge Li Qian, PhD, AHA award recipient

Li Qian, PhD, Associate Professor of Pathology, member of the McAllister Heart Institute, has received the 2018 Transformational Project Award from the American Heart Association (AHA) with 3 years funding in the amount of $300,000 to support Qian Lab’s continued effort in using reprogramming approaches to mend broken hearts. Dr. Qian’s work in cardiac reprogramming has opened a new field of study and represents a promising alternative approach to cardiac regeneration. Her ground-breaking work demonstrated that endogenous cardiac fibroblasts can be directly converted into cardiomyocyte-like cells in their native environment, which translated into functional improvement and scar size reduction in an animal model of myocardial infarction. Since being recruited to UNC in 2012, her lab has developed a system in which cardiac reprogramming can be rigorously studied and implemented. Milestone work from the Qian Lab translating basic science into developing innovative therapeutic strategies for heart disease has been published in journals including Nature, Science, Cell Stem Cell, Cell Reports, Circulation Research, and Cardiovascular Research.

This year, the AHA released a new award mechanism, the Transformational Project Award, to encourage investigators to develop bold ideas on an emerging paradigm. According to the AHA, “this award represents the second phase of a successful exploratory study that is already showing a high probability of revealing new avenues of investigation.” Dr. Qian’s pioneering work in cardiac reprogramming and proposed continued research in further developing the technique and understanding the underlying mechanism align well with the purpose of this award. With this research fund, her team will continue a combinatorial utilization of single cell platforms, various omics approaches, and cutting-edge molecular assays to move this cellular reprogramming approach closer to clinical application on a significant population in US who suffer from heart failure.

This is one of several recent AHA awards for Qian Lab. Dr. Qian’s graduate student Haley Vaseghi and research associate Li Wang have successfully competed for the 2018 AHA Predoctoral Fellowship and 2018 AHA Career Development Award respectively.

Dr. Hugh “Chip” A. McAllister Jr., founder of McAllister Heart Institute, passes away

UNC’s McAllister Heart Institute founder and namesake Dr. Hugh “Chip” A. McAllister, Jr. passed away at his home in Houston, Texas on June 15, 2018.
Dr. Hugh “Chip” A. McAllister Jr., founder of McAllister Heart Institute, passes away click to enlarge Dr. Hugh “Chip” A. McAllister, Jr.

UNC’s McAllister Heart Institute founder and namesake Dr. Hugh “Chip” A. McAllister, Jr. passed away at his home in Houston, Texas on June 15, 2018. Dr. McAllister was a 1966 graduate of UNC’s School of Medicine. After obtaining his medical degree, he served 22 years in the military at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology while holding multiple academic appointments. After retiring from the military in 1984, he joined the Texas Heart Institute as the founding Chair of the Department of Cardiovascular Pathology and went on to hold appointments at Baylor College of Medicine and the University of Texas Medical School.

Dr. McAllister received numerous awards recognizing his contributions to cardiac pathology including the Casimir Funk Award for outstanding work in the field of cardiovascular disease and the Silver Medallion of the Instituto Nacional de Cardiologia de Mexico, honoring him as a distinguished investigator in the field of cardiovascular disease. He received the “A” Professional Designator Award for his accomplishments within the Army Medical Department from the Surgeon General of the United States Army, and the Legion of Merit of the United States of America Award for outstanding service. In 2001, the Society for Cardiovascular Pathology recognized him with their Distinguished Achievement Award.

Dr. McAllister’s commitment to UNC was lifelong. He served as president of the UNC Medical Alumni Association and was a member of the Executive Committee of the Medical Foundation of North Carolina and the UNC Board of Visitors. In 1999, Dr. McAllister endowed a distinguished professorship in obstetrics and gynecology in memory of his father, who was also a graduate of UNC’s School of Medicine. In addition, he donated over 150 pieces of art to the Ackland Art Museum. In 2013, he received the Davie Award, the highest service award given by UNC’s trustees.

In 2009, Dr. McAllister made a donation to UNC’s School of Medicine to create the McAllister Heart Institute with the goal of creating one of the nation’s leading centers for cardiovascular research. Today the UNC McAllister Heart Institute hosts more than 45 labs that advance patient care. Its mission is to advance the care of patients with diseases of the heart, blood, and circulation by encouraging basic, preclinical, and applied research to unravel the causes of cardiovascular disease and to provide new tools for its diagnosis and treatment. Current McAllister Co-Directors Dr. Vicki Bautch and Dr. Rick Stouffer stated in tribute to Dr. McAllister that “all of us have been and will continue to be inspired by Chip’s vision and passion to build the leading center for cardiovascular research in the world here at UNC. Following a visit to campus in April, Chip shared with us that he was very pleased with the direction of UNC McAllister Heart Institute, and the innovative research that is being conducted to advance both basic knowledge and the care of all those who suffer from cardiovascular disease.” Learn more about Dr. McAllister.

Podcast on long QT syndrome with Dr. Anil Gehi

Dr. Anil Gehi is interviewed by Department of Medicine Chair Dr. Ron Falk in a podcast on long QT syndrome, an electrical disorder of the heart. They discuss different forms of long QT syndrome (inherited and acquired), genetic testing, and treatments.

Dr. Matt Cavender named to NCDR PVI Registry Steering Committee

Dr. Matt Cavender has been named to the NCDR PVI Registry Steering Committee. The PVI registry included patient data from over 200 participating institutions. Its goal is to measure the prevalence, demographics, management and outcomes of patients undergoing percutaneous treatment for peripheral vascular disease — as well as carotid artery stenting (CAS) and carotid endarterectomy.

UNC LVAD program in the news

WRAL features patient Drew Walczak, treated for viral cardiomyopathy at UNC. Drew was discharged in good condition with a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) and is currently awaiting a heart transplant. WRAL's story includes an interview with Dr. Jason Katz.

Learn more about the LVAD program at UNC.

NP Sarah Waters honored for excellence

NP Sarah Waters honored for excellence click to enlarge Sarah Waters, RN, MSN, ANP-BC

Sarah Waters RN, MSN, ANP-BC, Nurse Practitioner with UNC's Heart Failure group has been chosen as one of the Great 100 nurses in North Carolina. This award has been given out annually since 1989 to recognize North Carolina nurses who demonstrate excellence in practice and commitment to their profession.

Learn more about heart failure care at UNC.

UNC Nash Heart Center receives multiple achievement awards

The Heart Center at UNC Nash Heath Care has received three national awards for quality achievement, the Mission Lifeline® NSTEMI Gold Award and the Mission Lifeline® STEMI Receiving Center Gold Award from the American Heart Association and the ACTION Registry Gold Performance Achievement Award for 2018 from the American College of Cardiology.

The Mission: Lifeline® Gold Quality Achievement Awards recognize hospitals that implement specific quality improvement measures outlined by the American Heart Association for the treatment of patients who suffer heart attacks. The American Heart Association’s Mission: Lifeline® program’s goal is to reduce system barriers to prompt treatment for heart attacks, beginning with the 9-1-1 call, to EMS transport and continuing through hospital treatment and discharge. UNC Nash earned the award by meeting specific criteria and standards of performance for the quick and appropriate treatment of heart attack patients by providing emergency procedures to re-establish blood flow to blocked arteries when needed.

“We commend the Heart Center at UNC Nash Health Care for this award in recognition for following evidence-based guidelines for timely heart attack treatment,” said Tim Henry, M.D., Chair of the Mission: Lifeline® Acute Coronary Syndrome Subcommittee. “We applaud the significant institutional commitment to their critical role in the system of care for quickly and appropriately treating heart attack patients.”

The ACTION Registry Gold Performance Achievement Award from the American College of Cardiology recognizes UNC Nash Health Care’s commitment to and success in implementing a higher standard of care for heart attack patients as outlined by American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association clinical guidelines and recommendations. UNC Nash is one of only 37 hospitals nationwide to win this award. The Nash Heart Center is a member of the American College of Cardiology’s ACTION Registry, a network of hospitals sharing process of care and outcomes data on heart attack patients with a goal of continuous quality improvement. To receive the award, Nash Health Care demonstrated sustained achievement in the ACTION Registry for eight consecutive quarters and has performed at the top level of standards for specific performance measures. UNC Nash received the Silver award last year.

Dr. Michael Yeung is the physician leader on the Nash team. Since opening in 2014, the Nash Heart Center has increased the scope of services available for patients in the Rocky Mount area. UNC faculty including Dr. Yeung as well as Drs. Ruihai Zhou, Carlos Espinoza, Zehra Husain, and Stephanie Martin, along with Drs. Sudhir Prasada and Roy Flood provide cardiac care and perform interventional procedures including stent placement and balloon angioplasty. In February 2018, the available services for Nash patients grew to include a dedicated Heart Valve Clinic where patients can be evaluated for complex valve disease for either minimally invasive percutaneous intervention or surgery.

These three awards recognize the commitment to quality of care and range of options available at the Nash Heart Center for patients experiencing heart attack in the Rocky Mount area. “Being part of UNC, it is our mission to serve the state of North Carolina,” said Dr. Yeung. “Two years ago, we found that there was a huge unmet need in terms of the management of heart attacks in the Rocky Mount area and we set out to change that.  We are very excited to receive these awards, and we are very pleased to work together with Dr. Sudhir Prasada in managing our heart attack patients to improve our community.  We are also adding new services to the Heart Center - such as a Valve Clinic and Heart Failure Clinic.  And hopefully that is ultimately our goal, for all of us to work together in order to improve and deliver comprehensive cardiac care in Rocky Mount.”

Read news coverage from the Rocky Mount Telegram on Nash Heart Center awards.

Understanding the impact of heart attack type on hospital-level outcomes

New research in the Journal of the American Heart Association from a UNC team including Cardiology research fellow Dr. Sameer Arora and Cardiology faculty members Dr. Matt Cavender and Division Chief Dr. Rick Stouffer suggests that it may be of benefit to not categorize type 2 myocardial infarction (MI) under the general umbrella of non-ST-elevation myocardial infarction. The research suggests it may be better to differentiate it from type 1 MI patients clinically.

New research in the Journal of the American Heart Association from a UNC team including Cardiology research fellow Sameer Arora and Cardiology faculty members Dr. Matt Cavender and Division Chief Dr. Rick Stouffer suggests that it may be of benefit to not categorize type 2 myocardial infarction (MI) under the general umbrella of non-ST-elevation myocardial infarction (NSTEMI) and to differentiate it from type 1 MI patients clinically. NSTEMI is a major category of heart attack; Type 1 MI is characterized by plaque rupture, which is absent from type 2 MI. The study was based on retrospective data and has implications in helping us better understand the outcomes and optimal aftercare of patients with NSTEMI.

The study is also highlighted in a Cardiology Today overview of the research.

Li Wang Receives Career Development Award from American Heart Association

Li Wang, PhD, research associate in the Qian Lab and a member of UNC McAllister Heart Institute, has received the prestigious Career Development Award from the AHA. The award is given to highly promising young scientists in their early years to explore innovative questions in the field of cardiovascular research.
Li Wang Receives Career Development Award from American Heart Association click to enlarge Li Wang, PhD

Li Wang, PhD, Research Associate in the Qian lab at McAllister Heart Institute has received a Career Development Award from AHA with 3 years funding of $231,000 to support her research project “Role of Autophagy in Direct Cardiac Reprogramming.”

Dr.Wang obtained her PhD degree from Chinese Academy of Sciences (Beijing, China) in 2012, and joined Dr. Li Qian’s lab for postdoctoral training since then. Wang is interested in further developing and refining cellular reprogramming approaches to regenerate or repair an injured heart.

Cellular reprogramming of a somatic non-myocyte directly into an induced cardiomyocyte (iCM) has been achieved by forced expression of defined factors. This novel strategy holds great promise for treating heart failure, a common and morbid disease caused by irreversible loss of functional cardiomyocytes. However, the limited understanding of the underlying molecular mechanisms of iCM reprogramming has significantly hindered its clinical applicability. Refinement of this technique will not be possible without sufficient understanding on basic mechanisms of iCM reprogramming.

Wang proposed to explore how iCMs remodel the existing fibroblast structure and establish a bona fide cardiac program. For this funded project, she hypothesized that autophagy, an evolutionally conserved recycling process, is activated so as to orchestrate the authentic cell fate conversion. She will use the research fund to characterize the dynamics of autophagy and define the role that autophagy plays during iCM reprogramming. Because autophagy can be manipulated through pharmacological approaches (i.e. small molecules and drugs), iCM technology may move to the next stage of application with easy manipulation and high efficiency. Wang’s innovative research direction of linking cell homeostasis to epigenetic landscaping to cell fate will also advance our knowledge about cell fate determination and the nature of cell identify.