30 Years of Progress: Building on a Proud History


Saving Hearts with Technology – In 1985, the year before University Heart Center was established, Jack G. Copeland, MD, became the first surgeon to successfully use an artificial heart as a bridge to heart transplant. The artificial heart replaced the diseased heart of an end-stage heart failure patient, Michael Drummond, saving his life while he waited for a donor heart.

Today, heart failure (HF) affects about 5 million people in the United States and about 250,000 people die each year from HF. Cardiologists have learned a lot during the past 30 years about how to improve a person’s odds of living longer with HF, while maintaining a better quality of life, even after traditional medical therapies have failed. Advanced heart failure and transplant cardiologists care for HF patients who are out of options. What was just a few years ago the end of the line, is no longer. Heart transplantation, artificial heart pumps, specialized pacemakers and new and better drugs are making a difference.

Keeping the Beat

Cardiologists who specialize in diagnosis and treatment of disorders in the heart’s electrical systems are called electrophysiologists. Common electrical disorders include atrial fibrillation (an irregular heart beat), bradycardia (slow heart rhythm) and tachycardia (fast heart rhythm).

Minimally Invasive Heart Valve Implants

In cases of severe aortic stenosis, the aortic valves may become thickened and not open properly so that the blood cannot flow from the heart chambers to the rest of the body. In the past, open-heart surgery was the only option for patients, and it requires weeks of recuperation. For patients who were deemed too risky for open-heart surgery because of their ages or conditions that were too complex, options were limited.

Resuscitation Research at Sarver Heart Center

Every day nearly 1,000 people die from sudden cardiac arrest in the United States alone. Cardiologists and scientists at the Sarver Heart Center are recognized worldwide for decades of research that led to new CPR guidelines, including chest-compression-only CPR, a method that doubles a person’s chance of survival from sudden cardiac arrest. Equally important are the Resuscitation Research Team’s life-saving protocols for emergency responders and hospitals.

Making Heart Research More Precise.

Today - “As we move forward, guided by our 10-year vision, Sarver Heart Center faculty will collaborate on bridging ideas from clinical experience with basic research advances. We are building a more robust cardiac biorepository that allows our scientists to use human samples to study the genes, proteins and other molecules that may make treatments more precise for individual heart patients,” said Nancy K. Sweitzer, MD, PhD, director of the UA Sarver Heart Center and chief of Cardiology.

Just as the Heart Center’s founding directors recognized the need for basic scientists to collaborate with clinical faculty to advance heart disease research, today you’ll find Codirector Carol Gregorio, PhD (left), discussing research ideas with Director Nancy Sweitzer, MD, PhD.