The University Record, September 25, 2000

Cardiovascular Center to improve patient care, research, education

By Kara Gavin
Health System Public Relations

The Regents have approved a new multidisciplinary center that will galvanize the institution’s role in the fight against the state’s—and the nation’s—number one killer: cardiovascular disease.

The U-M Cardiovascular Center, approved at the September Regents’ meeting, will bring together all of the University’s resources in heart and vascular treatment, research and education in a fashion similar to the Comprehensive Cancer Center, established at the U-M Health System (UMHS) in 1986. The approval allows the new center to be officially founded, and opens the door for the eventual proposal of a new building to house many of the center’s clinical services.

With the new center, Health System officials say, patients will benefit from better coordination among physicians and other clinical staff. Basic research will be brought to clinical application more smoothly. And everyone from medical students to practicing physicians to community members will have more opportunities to learn about the origin, diagnosis, prevention and treatment of conditions ranging from high blood pressure and aortic diseases to heart attack and stroke.

“Fighting such a deadly group of interrelated and common diseases requires the mustering of our resources in a cohesive and effective fashion,” said Gilbert S. Omenn, executive vice president for medical affairs and UMHS chief executive officer, who presented the center’s plan to the Regents. “This center will help our institution serve the people of this state and this nation better, as we combat both the causes and the effects of cardiovascular disease.”

The center will bring together cardiovascular programs from the UMHS and the rest of the University, including adult and pediatric cardiology, adult and pediatric cardiac surgery, vascular surgery, vascular medicine, hypertension, stroke, and many related disciplines and projects.

“With cardiovascular disease killing one person in this country every 33 seconds, and nearly 77 Michigan residents each day, we have no time to lose,” said Kim Eagle, interim chief of the division of cardiology and co-director of the current Heart Care Program.

The tide of cardiovascular disease is rising, and with it the demand on the University’s relevant clinical services, the amount of funding that the U-M spends on related research, and the need for better student, community and physician education.

The number of visits to the UMHS adult cardiology services increased nearly 22 percent in the past three years, and the U-M currently receives $71.5 million in funding for cardiovascular research, $60 million of it in the Medical School and the rest in programs throughout the University.

The U-M’s cardiovascular patient care programs are not the largest in the state, nor the Detroit region, but they excel in specialty areas including heart transplant, medical imaging, management of heart failure, valvular heart disease, life-threatening arrhythmias, and the evaluation and repair of congenital heart defects. Coronary artery surgery and angioplasty are also strengths.

The University’s physicians routinely lead clinical trials for new medications to treat heart failure, arrhythmias and other conditions, and for new heart-assist devices and surgical techniques. Innovative programs for preventive cardiology for both adults and children, and for scientific studies of alternative therapies for heart conditions, have been developed. U-M researchers also study the way cardiovascular care is delivered; their findings have helped centers regionally and across the nation improve their operations.

The new center will allow those programs and more to work together and seek synergistic opportunities for new initiatives and better care. An interim director will be appointed soon by Medical School Dean Allen Lichter, and a national search for a permanent director will begin.

An executive committee also will soon be appointed to guide the planning phases, and a facilities planning committee will begin detailed planning and design for the center’s building. Both will seek input from faculty from other areas of the University.

Much of the center’s research will be conducted in existing or already planned buildings throughout the Medical Campus, and cardiovascular inpatients will continue to be treated in the University Hospital and C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. The planned building will house facilities for invasive and noninvasive diagnostic procedures, and for outpatient areas that will support multidisciplinary clinics, an approach that allows patients to see multiple specialists in one visit.

A major philanthropic campaign to help support the new center will kick off shortly, along with marketing efforts to establish the center’s presence and increase awareness of cardiovascular issues in the minds of providers and community members. Within the existing programs involved in cardiovascular activity, staff will begin the process of redesigning their services to take advantage of the center’s new structure.

With the new cross-disciplinary focus that the center will provide, researchers will be able to expand their basic research of the genetic and biochemical underpinnings of cardiovascular disease, and their clinical research in gene therapy and the management of congenital heart disease. They also will be better able to study how patients’ care affects their quality of life, and how health care systems affect the adoption of new practices and technology.

The new center also will focus on the future of cardiovascular research and care, by training medical and graduate students, residents and regional physicians using the latest technological, clinical and epidemiological knowledge.