University of Arizona Sarver Heart Center Member Updates 2019

Here is a recap of some of the academic and research activities of members of the University of Arizona Sarver Heart Center.

Khadijah Breathett, MD, MS, FACC, FAHA, assistant professor of medicine, was awarded a Young Investigator Database Seed Grant from the American Heart Association “Get With The Guidelines® program” focused on improving patient care.

Dr. Breathett also was awarded a Carl Storm Underrepresented Minority Fellowship to support her presentations at the 2019 Assisted Circulation Gordon Research Seminar and Conference. She was awarded a coveted position in the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, Research in Implementation Science for Equity (RISE) Program.

In April, Dr. Breathett was selected by the National Minority Quality Forum as one of “40 Under 40 Leaders in Minority Health.”

Zoe Cohen, PhD, assistant professor of physiology, UA College of Medicine – Tucson, was honored for excellence in teaching and mentoring with the Margaret M. Briehl and Dennis T. Ray Five Star Faculty Award, the only award for UA faculty members who are nominated and selected by undergraduate students.

Sharon Gregoire, ACNP, FNP, CCTC, now adds DNP (Doctor of Nursing Practice) to her credentials after graduating from Grand Canyon University’s Doctor of Nursing Program. She also is a certified clinical transplant coordinator.

Meredith Hay, PhD, professor of physiology at the UA College of Medicine - Tucson, and a faculty member of the Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute, has been elected president of the American Physiological Society for 2019-2020.

Olivia Hung, MD, PhD, assistant professor of medicine, is serving as a faculty facilitator for the UA College of Medicine - Tucson Clinical Reasoning Course.

Raj Janardhanan, MD, professor of medicine and medical imaging and medical director on non-invasive cardiac imaging, was selected to serve as a volunteer with the American Society of Echocardiography Global Outreach in China during September 2019.

Kwan Lee, MD, associate professor of medicine and associate chief of cardiology, and Alvaro Altamirano, MD, clinical assistant professor of medicine, organized the first American College of Cardiology Arizona Cardiology Simulation Summer Camp at the UA Sarver Heart Center in June. Dr. Lee is the current governor of the ACC Arizona chapter. Special thanks go to the numerous health-care professionals, including faculty, fellows and staff who participated as teachers and mentors during this two-day program for an enthusiastic group of high school students.

During the summer, Dr. Lee delivered the keynote lecture, “Physician Burnout,” for the MYLIVE 2019 Scientific Program of the National Heart Association of Malaysia. He also was faculty for the Asia Pacific Society of Interventional Cardiology (AICT-Asia PCR 2019).

Frank Marcus, MD, professor emeritus of medicine and an active research scientist, was honored by the Heart Rhythm Society in May for his seminal research on right ventricular dysplasia. He presented a lecture, “Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy: State-of-the-Field.”

John Ruiz, PhD, associate professor of psychology, co-authored “Associations Between Objective Sleep and Ambulatory Blood Pressure in a Community Sample,” in Psychosomatic Medicine, 2019, along with lead author, Caroline Doyle, a graduate student in the UA Department of Psychology. Dr. Ruiz was a recipient of a 2018-2019 UA Sarver Heart Center Investigator Award.

Nancy K. Sweitzer, MD, PhD, director of the UA Sarver Heart Center, professor of medicine and chief of cardiology, was invited to present three named lectures:

  • Miriam Lemberg Professorship in Cardiovascular Disease at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine in March
  • Thomas W. Smith, MD, Memorial Lecture, Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston
  • The George and Frances Broaddus Crutchfield Lectureship at VCU Health (Virginia Commonwealth University), where she delivered three lectures: “The Science of Uncertainty: A Practical Approach to Management of Heart Failure with preserved Ejection Fraction;” “Save Lives and Prevent Readmissions! Outpatient Management of Heart Failure with reduced Ejection Fraction;” and “Known Unknowns and Unknown Unknowns: Moving Forward in Heart Failure with preserved Ejection Fraction”

Dr. Sweitzer authored “Choosing a Career in Heart Failure A US Perspective,” in Circulation: Heart Failure, July 18, 2019.

Dr. Sweitzer also was a co-author on: 

  • “Vet the Message - Medical Misinformation” in Circulation: Heart Failure. Dr. Sweitzer is the editor in chief of this journal.
  • “Comparison of Outcomes in Patients With Diabetes Mellitus Treated With Versus Without Insulin + Heart Failure With Preserved Left Ventricular Ejection Fraction (from the TOPCAT Study)” in The American Journal of Cardiology
  • “Metformin improves diastolic function in an HFpEF-like mouse model by increasing titin compliance” in Journal of General Physiology (with Henk Granzier, PhD, professor of cellular and molecular medicine and the Allan and Alfie Norville Endowed Chair, in Women’s Heart Disease).

Perhaps the most joyous recognition, Dr. Sweitzer was nominated by her daughter, and honored by Tu Nidito, Tucson in May, as a Remarkable Mom.

Jil C. Tardiff, MD, PhD, and members of her research team published, “Chronic Calmodulin-Kinase II Activation Drives Disease Progression in Mutation-Specific Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy” in Circulation, March 19, 2019. Dr. Tardiff is professor of medicine, cellular and molecular medicine, and biomedical engineering.

Dr. Tardiff also was co-chair of the Basic Cardiovascular Science Council 2019, held in Boston this summer.

Rebecca Vanderpool, PhD, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, received an AHA Early Career Award for her project, “Role of HIF-2a and Right Ventricular Fibrosis in the Development of Right Heart Failure and Pulmonary Hypertension.” Patients with pulmonary hypertension (PH) have high blood pressure in the blood vessels in their lungs because of narrowing of the pulmonary arteries. The right side of the heart increases in size due to increased pulmonary pressure and progression of PH results in right ventricular failure and death. A critical need exists to develop biomarkers allowing a physician to identify high-risk patients in need of early or aggressive treatment. The Vanderpool research team seeks to identify what genetic factors are responsible for structural and functional changes in the right ventricle that lead to right heart failure. They also are investigating the role of cellular factors in the development of right ventricular fibrosis.

Craig Weinkauf, MD, PhD, assistant professor of surgery, was awarded an Early Career Development Grant from University of Arizona Health Sciences to develop improved targeted care for patients with carotid vascular disease through imaging strategies and treatment techniques. Stroke is associated with unstable carotid atherosclerosis and is a leading cause of death and disability in the United States, yet the majority of patients with carotid atherosclerosis have no symptoms. Dr. Weinkauf’s primary mentor is Irving L. Kron, MD, professor of surgery, UA College of Medicine - Tucson, senior associate vice president, UA Health Sciences, professor, UA Department of Surgery, and Sarver Heart Center member.