Note from the Director


With a newly-announced Sarver Heart Center vision for the future, we are looking forward to 2016 – our 30th anniversary as a center dedicated to research and education in cardiovascular disease.  The faculty are pursuing innovative research in heart disease, and we are recruiting increasingly impressive physicians in training and graduate students who are studying to become the specialists and researchers of tomorrow. Most importantly, we are treating thousands of people in our community and creating hope for a future free of heart disease and stroke.

In the past 30 years the Sarver Heart Center has been the site of impressive advances in heart disease research and treatment, but our work is not finished. As we proceed forward with a revitalized vision, great things are coming to the Sarver Heart Center in the new year and beyond.

This year we developed a 10-year vision that proposes to focus our mission in five areas going forward:

1.       Advanced Heart Disease, including heart failure, mechanical circulatory support, pulmonary hypertension and heart transplant. An area of historical strength at the Sarver Heart Center, home of the team that made the total artificial heart a lifesaving technology, we are in the process of growing and revamping our clinical programs in this area.  Among the patients with advanced heart disease we have recently cared for, we are touched by a Native American woman who, with the support of a ventricular assist device, was able to keep her failing heart pumping until a donor heart became available. She now can live a full life and share her culture with her granddaughter.

2.       Sudden Cardiac Arrest and Resuscitation. Since Dr. Ewy first championed chest-compression-only CPR more than 20 years ago, more than 2,900 lives have been saved in Arizona.  This year, Pima County Sheriff’s deputies started immediate chest-compression-only CPR when they found a 70-year-old man who suffered a sudden cardiac arrest slumped over in his car. Their response combined with Banner – University Medical Center Tucson’s ECMO technology (Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation) saved the life and brain function of this retired physiologist. Once again, we were reminded of the impact of our combined missions of research and community education.

3.       Precision Cardiovascular Therapies. Imagine if the pills you took for heart disease were designed for you personally!  As an advanced heart disease cardiologist, I treat most of my heart failure patients with six or more medicines, all proven to help most people with this disease.  We are working to better understand disease variation between people in order to individualize and simplify treatment of complex heart diseases.  I’m pleased to announce I was awarded a grant from the American Heart Association in November that supports analysis of blood samples from heart failure patients with just this goal in mind – identifying individual variation in blood proteins to better understand how these variations affect unique heart failure patients. 

4.       Cardiovascular Health and Wellness. I know many of you believe passionately that Tucson is a special place of wellness and healing.  During the next 10 years, we will work with you and like-minded community partners to make Tucson a destination for cardiovascular disease prevention and healing, augmenting our current knowledge of heart-healthy behavior with new discoveries.  Full realization of this aspect of the vision will require recruitment of top talent, capable of taking full advantage of big data resources available from Banner to facilitate transformational discoveries on the path to optimal cardiovascular wellness.

5.       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 persons were often under represented. As a result, these treatments may not provide the same benefits to these groups who carry different risks. By better understanding population differences, we can improve outcomes in these groups. We look to lead the research that must be done.

We hope you’re excited to be part of this vision and will continue to support the Sarver Heart Center as we enter the next era.  With your support, Sarver Heart Center physicians and scientists combine knowledge and skill to better understand heart disease and find improved, targeted treatments for individual patients and populations. To speed our quest to transform the landscape of heart disease, we rely on support from people like you.

You will continue to hear about our vision.  If something in the vision strikes a chord with you, please reach out to us so we can more fully develop areas of mutual interest and engage you in supporting this important effort. 

Best wishes to you and your family for a happy and healthy year!


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