Sarver Heart Center Member Updates, Awards, Honors

The first half of 2017 brought numerous announcements of honors, awards and major grant funding for Sarver Heart Center members. Here’s a recap of some highlights.

Will a New Therapy Make a Heart-Saving Surgery Better for the Brain?

What's good for the heart generally is good for the brain. But not necessarily in the case of coronary artery bypass surgery. Each year, about 500,000 people in the United States undergo this heart-saving surgery – known as CABG. And, while this improves blood flow to the heart, the procedure sometimes causes cognitive impairment, or disturbances in thinking and memory. Nancy K. Sweitzer, MD, PhD, director of the Sarver Heart Center, was awarded a $2.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study whether administration of a small protein called a peptide to patients at the time of CABG surgery can safely and effectively protect cognitive function. Dr. Sweitzer is collaborating with Lee Ryan, PhD, professor and head of the Department of Psychiatry, and Meredith Hay, PhD, professor of physiology. David A. Bull, MD, and Zain Khalpey, MD, PhD, are the cardiothoracic surgeons who will operate on participants at the University of Arizona.

Dr. Sweitzer was inducted in January into the Association of University Cardiologists, a professional organization that elects an active membership of 125 academic cardiologists considered leaders who shape the course of research and training in cardiovascular disease.

On July 1, Dr. Sweitzer became editor in chief of Circulation: Heart Failure, one of the most respected cardiology journals published. Its impact ranking is 11 out of 139 cardiology journals. This is a measure of the number of citations published in one journal in a year. Circulation: Heart Failure is a monthly online journal that focuses on the best clinical and translational research in heart failure, mechanical circulatory support and heart transplant.

Regulating Hypertension in Postmenopausal Women

Heddwen Brooks, PhD, Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, received $1.53 million from the NIH to study postmenopausal hypertension. High blood pressure is the number one risk factor for cardiovascular disease in postmenopausal women, and the severity and incidence of hypertension increases in women after menopause. Prescribed antihypertensive drugs are less effective in postmenopausal women than in men. In fact, 64 percent of women with postmenopausal hypertension do not have adequate blood pressure control.

Sickle Cell Cardiomyopathy and Ventricular Tachycardia

Ankit Desai, MD, assistant professor of medicine in cardiology, was awarded $2.4 million over 5 years from the NIH to study the “Pathogenic Role of IL-18 in Sickle Cell Cardiomyopathy and Inducible Ventricular Tachycardia.” “This grant allows me and my research team to explore a poorly recognized manifestation of sickle cell anemia and provide the mechanistic framework to better understand its development as well as to propose future therapeutic studies for patients with the disease,” Dr. Desai said.  

Two New Fellowship Programs Accredited

An Advanced Heart Failure and Transplant Cardiology Fellowship Program, accredited to begin in 2017, will be led by Jennifer Cook, MD, associate professor and medical director of the Advanced Heart Failure, Transplant the Mechanical Circulatory Support Program. (See article on page X for more information.)

Beginning in 2018, a newly accredited Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiology Fellowship Program will begin training sub-specialty fellows in management of arrhythmic disease.  This fellowship program will be led by Mathew Hutchinson, MD, professor of medicine and director of the Cardiac Electrophysiology Program.

Awards and Honors

Raj Janardhanan, MD, received the Reader’s Choice Award in India at the annual Cardiology Society of India Conference in December, 2016, for his review article: Role of Cardiac MRI in Non-Ischemic Cardiomyopathies. It was one of the most downloaded articles from the Indian Heart Journal in 2016.


Kwan Lee, MD, organized and hosted the Asian Cardiothoracic Leadership Group at Sarver Heart Center at the end of April. The group of cardiothoracic surgeons visits international sites quarterly to discuss leadership issues in modern healthcare.

Since 2011, Dr. Lee has also teamed up with faculty from Mayo Clinic in Phoenix to offer cardiology simulation training for cardiology fellows from the UA and Mayo. Dr. Lee is the associate chief of cardiology, director for cardiovascular simulation, and associate program director of the UA Cardiovascular Disease Fellowship Program. He pursues several areas of research in clinical cardiology, including use of optical coherence tomography to assess stent healing cardiovascular “app” development, and simulation in cardiovascular education. His research on simulation includes a new study comparing simulation with in-classroom lectures to assess the most productive way to teach and learn cardiovascular medicine and procedures.

Arizona ACC (American College of Cardiology) held its first annual awards dinner and honored Dr. Lee with its Future Leader Award.

Jil C. Tardiff, MD, PhD, received a UA College of Medicine -Tucson 2017 Faculty Mentoring Award. A physician-scientist specializing in mechanisms underlying development of genetic cardiomyopathy, Dr. Tardiff is the Department of Medicine’s vice chair for research, a professor of medicine and cellular and molecular medicine in the Division of Cardiology, a member of the UA Sarver Heart Center and the Steven M. Gootter Endowed Chair for the Prevention of Sudden Cardiac Death. This year, she helped launch the Department of Medicine Research Seminar Lecture Series and Principal Investigator (PI) Poster Session to highlight innovative research by junior and senior faculty and promote collaborative opportunities for faculty, fellows, residents and medical students. 

Kat Sisterman, NP, won the first-place Cardiovascular Team Conference Oral Presentation Award at the Regional ACC Conference for the poster presentation, “Heart Failure Inpatients – Reducing Variability of Patient Care to Improve Outcomes: Team differences.” Her research collaborators were Balaji Natarajan, MD, James Rocha, RN, and Jennifer Cook, MD.


Sharon Gregoire, NP, presented a poster entitled, “Fatal Steatohepatitis and Vasoplegia After Heart Transplant,” at the International Society for Heart & Lung Transplantation in April 2017. Her collaborators were Prakash Suryanarayana, MD, Scott Lick, MD, and Nancy K. Sweitzer, MD, PhD. Gregoire, who is pursuing a nurse practitioner doctorate, also won the Mary Holocek Scholarship for Graduate Nursing Studies from Banner University Medical Center Foundation.

Sarver Heart Center members, Leslie Ritter, PhD, RN, and Zoe Cohen, PhD, received an engagement grant from the University of Arizona to support the collaboration between the UA Physiology Club, of which Dr. Cohen is the advisor, and the Stroke Resource Center of Southern Arizona (SRCSA). Dr. Ritter, who is the William Feinberg Endowed Chair for Stroke Research and 2015 recipient of the Mary Anne Fay Heart Health Advocate Award, first developed SRCSA in collaboration with members of the Sarver Heart Center Women’s Heart Health Education Committee. Dr. Cohen initiated the engagement grant collaboration to provide more outreach and engagement opportunities related to public awareness of stroke’s impact as well as prevention and follow-up for the Physiology Club’s students. This coincided with Dr. Ritter’s interests to expand the reach of the SRCSA.

Marcus Visiting Professorship Celebrates 20 Years

Sarver Heart Center fellows and faculty celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Samuel and Edith Marcus Visiting Professor in Cardiology this past February with a lecture by Douglas Zipes, MD, Professor Emeritus and Distinguished Professor of Medicine, Pharmacology and Toxicology, Indiana University School of Medicine and the Krannert Institute of Cardiology at the IU Medical Center, Indianapolis. Dr. Zipes’ Medicine Grand Rounds topic was “Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiology: How we got to where we are”

The sons and daughter of Samuel and Edith Marcus established this professorship in 1997 to enhance education and research for students, residents, fellows and faculty in cardiology. Samuel and Edith Marcus were Jewish immigrants from Russia and Poland, respectively. They were devoted to the education and welfare of their children: Frank, who helped establish the cardiology section at the University of Arizona College of Medicine; Julius, a successful businessman in Florida; and Shirley, a personal shopper for professional women, who was married to Judge Wilfred Feinberg of New York.

Read more Sarver Heart Center news in the Summer 2017 Newsletter.