Message from the Director - Advancing Our Mission Despite the Pandemic


Nancy K. Sweitzer, MD, PhD, director, University of Arizona Sarver Heart Center The profound disruption resulting from the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis has led to multiple unanticipated changes in the work at Sarver Heart Center during 2020.  Despite the pandemic, thanks to generous support from visionary donors, extremely dedicated faculty and staff, and new collaborations bridging work and faculty between the UArizona Colleges of Medicine in Tucson and Phoenix, 2020 was a very successful year for the heart center.

Three estate gifts were combined in 2020 to establish the Sarver Heart Center Endowment for Innovation and Advancement.   Roberta Arida – a long-time friend and patient of Dr. Gordon Ewy, Sarver Heart Center director emeritus –  named the Sarver Heart Center in his will. Another estate gift was received from Louis and Mary Allen, Green Valley residents who wanted to support academic medicine. Funds from a trust established by Lewis Weaks, who died of cancer in 1994, rounded out the trio of planned gifts that made the formation of this new endowment at the heart center possible. (See story.)

Expanded Collaborations

Two new opportunities for collaboration in 2020 will further Sarver Heart Center’s initiatives with colleagues in Phoenix. I was appointed Tucson director of UArizona Health Sciences Graduate Program in Clinical Translational Sciences (CTS) and now co-direct the program with Ronald Hammer, PhD, the Phoenix director of the program . The University of Arizona College of Medicine in Phoenix recruited Christopher Glembotski, PhD, a renowned cardiovascular disease research scientist, as the inaugural director of the Translational Cardiovascular Research Center at the College of Medicine - Phoenix. (See link.)

Both of these Phoenix-based colleagues understand the power and potential of sharing expertise and resources across our two campuses.

Clinical Research Renovations

The Clinical Research Program has navigated pandemic-related curveballs as staff continue to work remotely as much as possible and research visits are limited. Nonetheless, this highly professional team continued to manage a growing number of clinical trials, thanks in part to rapid growth in COVID-related research, often engaging new faculty with a passion for clinical research.

Improving the efficiency of clinical research has long been a priority for me, and I am so proud of the culture of clinical trials we have created in the Sarver Heart Center. This, along with our investigator awards program has really made Sarver Heart Center the “intellectual home” at the University of Arizona for clinicians, scientists and others interested in cardiovascular diseases, no matter their home department or allegiance. I am particularly impressed by the professionalism, attention to detail and excellence in clinical research performance exhibited by the team in our Clinical Research Program. Their work elevates what we do clinically, creates a rich intellectual and academic environment, and has garnered a national reputation as a desired site for clinical trials in cardiovascular medicine. Thanks to the generosity of a grateful patient (who wishes to remain anonymous), the offices of the Clinical Research Program recently underwent re-design and renovation to improve workflow and performance for this incredible team. (Learn more about Clinical Research at Sarver Heart Center.)

Development Priorities in 2021

While it often seems as if fundraising efforts are focused on large gifts and generating endowments, every dollar helps. Dr. Kwan Lee has worked with several grateful patients to invest in an upgrade to the Cardiovascular Medicine Simulator Training Center.

Sarver Heart Center leadership has identified faculty and research priorities to accelerate our growth in influence locally and nationally. These exciting opportunities need community support to advance our missions in education, research and clinical care. Along with these opportunities, we have identified additional facility needs that will be paramount to sustaining and advancing the services we provide to the community. In November, Sarver Heart Center marked 20 years since the opening of our current building. With your support, this hub of education, research and administration will serve the center for the next 20 years.  To learn more, please contact LaToya Singletary - Email: | Phone: 520-626-4518.

As we welcome in 2021, Sarver Heart Center is proud to build on the successes of 2020 with the tremendous support from you, our community. For that, we are ever grateful and encouraged.

Keep your masks on and stay safe and well!

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