NEW CARDIAC SURGERY CHAIR BRINGS WELL-ESTABLISHED BACKGROUND IN ACADEMIC SURGERY, EDUCATION AND RESEARCH
For Vinod H. Thourani, MD, new chair of Cardiac Surgery for the MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute (MHVI), the stars must have been aligned.
He was professor of Surgery and Medicine, co-director of the Structural Heart
and Valve Center, and chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Emory Midtown when MHVI’s long-time surgical leader, Paul Corso, MD, decided to transition out of his chairmanship. Ready for a new role, Dr. Thourani says he saw a rare opportunity to join “one of the very few hospital systems in the nation with a formal, functioning program dedicated to valve therapies.”
Stuart F. Seides, MD, MHVI physician executive director, saw the potential for a match made in heaven.
“Dr. Thourani is the rising star in his generation of cardiovascular surgeons,” says Dr. Seides. “He brings a strong and well-established background in academic surgery, education, and research to MHVI, which, under Dr. Corso, has become one of U.S. News & World Report’s 50 best cardiovascular centers in the nation. I am confident that Dr. Thourani will build upon our achievements and further secure our position as one of the nation’s premier heart and vascular institutes.”
That’s a tall order.
MHVI is already one of the highest volume programs in the nation for mitral valve surgery, and among the busiest programs on the East Coast for transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR). Between MedStar Washington Hospital Center and MedStar Union Memorial Hospital, MHVI performs more than 375 TAVR procedures annually and nearly 12,000 catheterizations.
The prestigious Society of Thoracic Surgeons—home of the world’s premier clinical outcomes registry for adult cardiac surgery—has just added another accolade to the Institute’s list of accomplishments. It awarded MedStar Washington Hospital Center three stars, the society’s highest ranking, in all three of its categories: CABG alone, Aortic Valve Replacement (AVR) alone, and combined AVR/CABG.
“These honors are tangible tributes to the high-quality program that Dr. Corso built over the past twenty years, and to MHVI’s remarkable history and culture of innovation and achievement in patient care,” Dr. Thourani says.
ON THE FRONTLINE OF A NEW FRONTIER
To start his tenure, Dr. Thourani is focusing first on an area where he is an acknowledged authority and where MHVI is already ahead of the curve: structural heart disease.
“The Structural Heart Disease Program is one of the things that really attracted me to MHVI,” says Dr. Thourani, tracing the Institute’s decade-long involvement in the new sub-specialty back to its participation in the initial clinical trials for TAVR. “Now, in collaboration with MHVI’s renowned team of interventional cardiologists and surgeons at MedStar Washington Hospital Center and MedStar Union Memorial Hospital, my goal is to further advance our leadership position in the field.”
Toward that end, he is already expanding the Institute’s existing research portfolio. Shortly after his arrival,
Dr. Thourani—national co-principal investigator for the Edwards Cardioband System ACTIVE clinical trial—brought the pivotal study to MedStar Washington Hospital Center.
“Cardioband is a transcatheter-based mitral valve repair system that approaches its target through the femoral vein,” explains Dr. Thourani. “With the ACTIVE trial now in place, MHVI is one of the first five sites in the nation and the only one in the mid-Atlantic able to offer this innovative technique to qualified patients with advanced heart failure.”
As the national principal investigator for the JenaValveTM Pericardial TAVR study for aortic valve leakage, Dr. Thourani expects to introduce this FDA trial to MHVI by the summer of 2018, with additional studies anticipated along the way. Altogether, he currently serves as either the national principal investigator or member of the executive committee for seven major new surgical and transcatheter trials on valve repair and replacement devices.
“Through research and clinical trials, we’re truly pushing the frontiers of what’s possible in cardiovascular care,” he says. “MHVI is a great place to do that, as it combines the benefits of an academic medical setting with efficiency and flexibility. As a result, our clinician/ researchers can quickly bring promising new therapies and techniques to bear upon our patients’ care, even as we continue to produce excellent outcomes for the sickest of the sick.”
A LIFELONG PURSUIT
Pushing the frontiers is something Dr. Thourani has done since childhood.
“From the time I was eight or nine, I knew I wanted to be a doctor,” he says, recalling summer days shadowing his cardiologist father. “He’d let me use the stethoscope, watch EKGs and just hang around in his clinic. It was great!” But in medical school, he “fell in love with” anatomy and surgery, and never looked back. After a research fellowship in cardiothoracic surgery, he delved even deeper into the heart, becoming mesmerized
by the valves.
“They’re like little individual organs that live inside a larger one,” says Dr. Thourani, who was among the vanguard of cardiac surgeons to start specializing in structural heart disease when the field was in its infancy. “I was fascinated by the complexities of their repair
Dr. Thourani expects the incidence of structural heart disease, mostly a condition of old age, to rise as more Americans live longer.
“The field of cardiovascular care, and particularly structural disease, is only going to grow,” Dr. Thourani concludes. “With its emphasis on structural heart disease, MHVI is on top of that wave. Working as a team, I want to contribute to the Institute’s reputation for excellence in patient care and satisfaction, education, and research, and help move us to the next level."
“It’s an exciting time to work in heart care, and I’m thrilled to be at the epicenter here at MHVI.”