Note from the Director - Significant Progress on Center Priorities


Nancy K. Sweitzer, MD, PhDWith expansion of our programs in research and clinical care, the UA Sarver Heart Center has made significant progress at the two-year mark in our 10-year vision, developed at the end of 2015 to focus on the five priority areas:

Advanced Heart Disease and Heart Transplant Program, an area of historical strength at the UA Sarver Heart Center, has experienced a period of modernization and expansion. Our team now includes seven advanced heart failure and transplant cardiologists who manage the long-term care of our patients and work daily with five experienced cardiothoracic surgeons with expertise in heart transplant and mechanical circulatory support device implantation. This highly collaborative team supports five clinical research projects investigating ways to improve care for patients with advanced heart disease.

Sudden Cardiac Arrest and Resuscitation. Dr. Karl Kern, a pioneering member of the world-renowned UA Sarver Heart Center Resuscitation Research Group, continues to forge new frontiers, and now is focused on advancing hospital care to further improve survival for cardiac arrest patients. Dr. Kern is leading an international multi-center clinical research trial. He also is an investigator on Strategies to Innovate EmeRgENcy Care Clinical Trials Network (SIREN), a new initiative of the National Institutes of Health to advance critical emergency medicine research. Charles Cairns, MD, dean of the UA College of Medicine – Tucson, is the principal investigator. Dr. Kern also is mentoring two Investigator Award recipients who are studying different aspects of sudden cardiac arrest and potential clinical improvements.

Precision Cardiovascular Therapy. At present, medication is prescribed to patients based on the disease they have, without much consideration of patient uniqueness. Multiple faculty members conduct research with the ultimate goal of providing therapy to patients that is far more individualized, taking into account the genetic, molecular and environmental influences on response to treatment. We continue to grow this aspect of the Heart Center, tightening the collaboration between the Molecular Cardiology Program and other basic science departments and clinical care. The increasing clinical research portfolio of Phase II studies, testing novel therapies for the first time in a disease state, is evidence of our success in this priority area.

Cardiovascular Health and Wellness. A focus on prevention remains a mainstay of the Heart Center. Recruitment of top talent in this focus area remains a future priority. Our community outreach – community lecture series, collaboration with Dr. Charles Katzenberg’s long-standing Heart Series, up-to-date health content on the SHC website, and our growing social media presence – continues to provide our community with the knowledge to optimize cardiovascular wellness.

Health Disparities. Heart disease does not manifest with the same signs and symptoms, nor is it treated identically in all people. Most current heart disease treatments are based on research in which women, minorities and older individuals were underrepresented. Data also indicates that doctors treat people differently, depending on their sex, race or ethnicity, often as a result of unconscious bias. In order to better treat all patients, understanding why these differences persist is critical. Dr. Khadijah Breathett, a new faculty member in Cardiovascular Medicine, is helping our profession understand causes and remedies for these disparities in patients with heart failure. Other efforts in the Sarver Heart Center are underway to continue the University of Arizona’s excellence in understanding and enriching diversity in medicine and ensuring all patients with heart disease experience the best possible outcome.

Much work remains, but it is exciting and ambitious work and we are energized by the progress that has been made and by the support we receive from all of you.

With Warm Wishes for a Happy, Healthy New Year,

Nancy K. Sweitzer, MD, PhD
Director, University of Arizona Sarver Heart Center
Professor and Chief, Division of Cardiology, UA College of Medicine – Tucson

Read more UA Sarver Heart Center news in the Winter-Spring 2018 Newsletter.