International Leader In Cardiovascular Imaging New Chief Of OHSU Cardiovascular Medicine

07-05-2005   Portland, Ore.

Oregon Opportunity allows cardiovascular medicine to more than double its faculty, research team.

Oregon Health & Science University is transforming its cardiac program with the recruitment of an international leader in cardiovascular imaging, new faculty and the addition of cutting-edge technology.

OHSU's newly named Division of Cardiovascular Medicine will focus on providing patients with more precise and less invasive methods for preventing, detecting and treating heart disease. At the same time, its faculty will lead the charge in discovering new and better ways to prevent heart disease that can help patients locally and globally.

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States with about 286 Oregonians per 100,000 dying of the disease each year, according to the American Heart Association.

"We are embarking on a reinvention of OHSU's cardiovascular program," said Sanjiv Kaul, M.D., an international leader in cardiovascular imaging and the new chief of the cardiovascular medicine division in the OHSU School of Medicine. "We want to change the way Oregonians think about heart disease so that the focus is more on prevention and early diagnosis of heart disease rather than just waiting to treat it."

Kaul spent the last 21 years at the University of Virginia where he created a cardiovascular imaging program that has become world renowned. He used his imaging expertise to help develop myocardial contrast echocardiography, a screening test for heart disease, using microbubbles as contrast agents. Now Kaul travels the world lecturing and writing about this innovative early detection technique.

"Kaul has an excellent vision for the future of this program. After a four-year search, we hand- picked him to lead this extraordinary opportunity to make a clinical impact and research progress in the area of cardiovascular medicine," said D. Lynn Loriaux, M.D., Ph.D., professor and chairman of medicine at the OHSU School of Medicine.

Kaul wants to take OHSU's cardiovascular program beyond the walls of the university. "I want to build strong relationships with community physicians. We are interested in partnering with each and every Oregonian in an effort to educate them about how to improve their cardiovascular health."

In September, when Kaul comes to OHSU, he plans to bring with him six of his brightest clinicians, educators, and researchers from the University of Virginia. The physicians and scientists will enhance OHSU's expertise in ultrasound, electrophysiology and heart failure. At the same time, the team will allow OHSU to provide a valuable new cardiac focus on computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging, and myocardial contrast echocardiography. They will join three recently recruited cardiologists who will begin practicing this summer and specialize in congenital heart defects, transplantation and electrophysiology. By mid-2006, the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine will have a total of 18 physicians and researchers. Kaul plans to recruit about a dozen more faculty in the next two to three years.

"My five-year goal is create an excellent cardiovascular program at OHSU and in 10 years I want OHSU to be the best cardiovascular program on the West Coast," said Kaul. "This is a very ambitious goal and I hope Oregonians will join us as we invest in this program."

So far, they have. The Oregon Opportunity, a statewide, public-private partnership designed to make Oregon a leader in biomedical research, made it possible for OHSU to recruit Kaul and his team, as well as support the infrastructure for their research.

"Through the Oregon Opportunity, OHSU has taken an important step in bringing this internationally recognized physician researcher, with imaging and early disease prevention skills, to OHSU. He will help us define the future of cardiovascular medicine, regionally and nationally," said Jerris Hedges, M.D., vice dean and professor of emergency medicine at the OHSU School of Medicine.

The transformation of OHSU's cardiovascular program goes beyond new recruits. In July, OHSU Hospital's Diagnostic Imaging Services will be the first in the Pacific Northwest to acquire a 64-slice CT scanner. This cutting-edge technology will allow the cardiac team to provide better early diagnosis and treatment to patients with cardiac disease. The scanner has four times as many detectors as a typical multi-detector CT scanner offering more detailed and clearer pictures of organs.

According to Kaul, early detection is the future focus for preventing cardiovascular disease. Seventy-five percent of heart attacks can be explained by risk factors such as genetics or lifestyle, but the other 25 percent is where clinical researchers and scientists can make a real difference. Using the advanced cardiac imaging techniques and tools, such as the 64-slice CT scanner, OHSU's cardiovascular experts will be able to detect the earliest stages of heart disease, treat it and prevent it from progressing further.

OHSU's nationally recognized leader in developing fetal hearts, Kent Thornburg, Ph.D, will lead the research arm of the new division. In addition to his role as director of the OHSU Heart Research Center, Thornburg will become the associate chief of research in the cardiovascular division.

The ability to combine heart research in the lab with clinical care in the health system is what makes OHSU so unique. "OHSU's cardiologists are marvelous and have done a great job. I hope to complement and strengthen cardiovascular expertise at OHSU," said Kaul.