Since his arrival just two months ago, Richard Becker, MD, has been meeting daily with faculty members to build support for programmatic changes across one of the four institutes at UC Health and the UC College of Medicine.
"There is always excitement among faculty, staff and fellows when a new chief comes to an institution,” says Becker, director and physician-in-chief of the newly named UC Heart, Lung and Vascular Institute and Mabel Stearns Stonehill Endowed Chair and Professor of the UC Division of Cardiovascular Health and Disease. The faculty, staff and fellows know I’m excited to be here, not solely because of my history at UC, but also the University’s and the College of Medicine's existing strengths and clear potential to have a substantial impact.”
The new name, specifically from the original and more virtual "UC Cardiovascular Institute,” may be the most visible change for the institute, which comprises more than 60 researchers, scientists, clinicians and nurses at UC Health, the College of Medicine, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and the Cincinnati Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
Members bring discoveries to practical use for patients living with cardiovascular disease in many forms. The institute is developing "centers of excellence” which will connect research, education and clinical care to achieve success in preventing, diagnosing and treating common diseases such as heart failure, valve disease, hypertension, and vascular disorders. Lung and critical-care related diseases would become additional "centers of excellence.”
Becker sees the cardiovascular, pulmonary and circulatory systems collectively as an anatomical, biological and pathophysiological continuum that provides a very strong foundation for patient care, education and research.
Bringing these systems together into one institute, he believes, allows UC and UC Health to establish unique programmatic and clinical enterprise-related themes that will immediately signal innovation, forethought and distinction in the medical, educational and scientific communities locally, regionally and nationally.
"An institute should establish a signature that will allow for visibility and distinction,” says Becker.
Anya Sanchez, MD, administrative director of the UC Neuroscience Institute and consultant to all of UC’s institutes and their centers of excellence, says the UC Heart, Lung and Vascular Institute is at a pivotal moment.
"It’s this amazing moment in time where the entire leadership team is new,” Sanchez says. "They are building from the ground up. They are deciding which centers of excellence they should lead with. Having Dr. Becker and a strong team is foundational to building a nationally recognized institute.”
Name Change Signifies Intent
Andrew Friedrich, MD, associate professor of clinical anesthesia and associate director of clinical care for the institute, says one of Becker’s goals for the institute is to emulate the research approach of the National Institutes of Health’s National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, and that a name change signifies his intent.
For cardiovascular institutes, Friedrich says, "centers of excellence” typically include but are not limited to coronary heart disease, heart failure, arrhythmias, and peripheral vascular disease.
Patients with these diseases regularly rely upon clinicians from many different specialties and departments, and the institute structure facilitates an integrated and coordinated approach to the care they receive, Friedrich adds.
Institutes also foster collaboration among clinicians, clinical researchers and basic scientists, with the goal of facilitating cross-disciplinary innovation in the understanding and treatment of the diseases that are the focus of the institute, explains Friedrich.
"The institute concept can be thought of as the medical equivalent of "concurrent engineering” in the manufacturing sector, which is how Apple makes computers and Toyota makes cars,” says Friedrich. "Bringing departments together for the entire process of formulating and implementing ideas, products and services is superior to the traditional approach of delivering care or performing research in isolation, or within the confines of a single department.”
Friedrich says Becker will provide strong leadership for the institute.
"Dr. Becker is a world-class clinical and translational science researcher with a focus on the hemostatic and thrombotic aspects of cardiovascular disease,” Friedrich says. "He has been an investigator in many seminal clinical trials, including anticoagulation and antiplatelet therapy in the setting of acute myocardial infarction and has contributed to the development of new platforms for novel drugs.”
Frank McCormack, MD, Taylor Professor and Director of the division of pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine, says adding the pulmonary or lung component to the institute makes sense because of the many natural opportunities for collaboration between cardiology and pulmonary research.
"Four that come immediately to mind are critical care, pulmonary hypertension, sleep and heart failure,” says McCormack.
In addition, morbidities due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and heart disease overlap extensively, says McCormack. People who smoke cigarettes often develop cardiovascular disease and lung cancer. The Institute will allow physicians and researchers to systematically and comprehensively address both diseases, says McCormack.
McCormack says Becker’s inclusion of pulmonary and lung care at the institute presents exciting opportunities for synergy. "Dr. Becker has been a very positive force in his first few months at UC,” says McCormack. "He’s got a lot of good ideas. I look forward to working with him.”
Christy Holland, PhD, associate director of research for the institute, says Becker’s presence will enhance the institute’s reputation. "Dr. Becker is an expert in thrombosis and thrombolysis,” said Holland, also a professor in the division of cardiovascular disease and health. "Those of us who are interested in treating heart attacks, stroke and vascular disease welcome the presence of his research expertise.”
A 1982 graduate of the UC College of Medicine, Becker received the Daniel Drake Medal, the UC College of Medicine’s highest honor in 2011. He is a former professor of medicine at Duke University and former director of the Duke Cardiovascular Thrombosis Research Center. Becker also served as the co-director of both the Advanced Biomarkers Program at the Duke Clinical Research Institute and the Duke Comprehensive Center for Hemostasis and Thrombosis.
Before Duke, Becker was a professor of medicine at the University of Massachusetts and founding director of the Cardiovascular Thrombosis Research Center and director of the Coronary Care Unit and Anticoagulation Services.
Becker has authored more than 600 articles, textbooks, book chapters, editorials and reviews. His interest in scientific writing dates back to his days as a University of Cincinnati undergraduate, graduate and medical student.
"At UC, I learned how to write as a graduate student because I was given many opportunities,” said Becker. "Scientific writing is very different from the writing of poetry or prose. I can’t do either, but I was taught scientific writing early on. It’s such as powerful medium. It’s a skillset that’s not intuitive. Explaining complicated concepts is an art.”
UC Heart, Lung and Vascular Institute Leadership
Richard Becker, MD
Director and Physician-in-Chief
Andrew Friedrich, MD
Associate Director of Quality and Care Processes
Christy Holland, PhD
Associate Director of Research
Associate Director of Administration
Frank McCormack, MD, Executive Officer
George Meier III, MD, Executive Officer