Dear Friend of Heart:
Happy New Year! I am excited to share with you this second edition of a monthly letter aimed at communicating with our most valuable partners, volunteers like you, about the exciting things happening in the Mid-Atlantic Affiliate. I am David Goff, Mid-Atlantic Board President, and myself and MAA EVP Jeremy Beauchamp will trade off each month so you can hear from both of us about the way our mission is impacting our communities in important and lifesaving ways.
First, you may be interested to know a little about me and why I am so strongly committed to the AHA. Like so many of you, my family has been touched by heart disease and stroke. I was born and raised in Rocky Mount, a fairly small town in eastern North Carolina. My paternal grandfather was a farmer and lived alone, my grandmother having died of breast cancer before my birth. I was a “city boy,” if you can call a town of about 35,000 a city, and on many weekends we would go out to the farm and run wild with our cousins. Then, my grandfather had a major disabling stroke. He needed long-term care, and his children rented the farm out to help pay those bills. All of our lives were affected. That experience, and the influence of family, teachers and others, encouraged me to pursue medicine and cardiovascular disease prevention research. More recently, my father suffered a stroke as a complication of bypass surgery. He spent that last 11 years of his life with difficulties communicating and walking, eventually becoming wheelchair-dependent. He was able to live at home, due to my mother’s loving care. Even more recently, my mother has developed diabetes and heart disease. I could tell you other stories about other relatives. It may suffice to say that if prevention starts at home, we have our work cut out for us in the Goff family.
My work at Wake Forest School of Medicine focuses on prevention of diabetes and cardiovascular disease through lifestyle, medications and healthcare quality improvement efforts. I was fortunate to receive research funding from the AHA early in my career and remain very grateful for the critical boost that support provided at a point when the success of my research career was uncertain. Over the years, I have tried to pay back the many privileges I have received by giving time to the AHA and by focusing on efforts to improve the health of all North Carolinians (and beyond, when possible).
I was very fortunate to attend AHA Scientific Sessions in Orlando in November. Scientific Sessions is the premier scientific meeting in cardiovascular medicine, research and prevention, and the groundbreaking news that results is amazing! For example, support was provided for therapeutic hypothermia to improve survival from cardiac arrest. People who are treated with therapeutic hypothermia in the field by EMS are more likely to survive to go home to their families. Think of a scuba diving suit that allows cold water to be kept inside. In addition, cold liquids are given by IV. The reduced body temperature reduces the damage to the heart and other vital organs, and it is already saving and improving lives across the MAA.
In addition, there was a big buzz about treating patients with chronic heart failure with cardiac stem cells. In this exciting study, surgeons harvested a small amount of heart muscle tissue during bypass surgery. The researchers isolated and grew cardiac stem cells in the lab, and the doctors infused those cells back into the patients they came from. That treatment showed benefits in heart function and patient function! There was also exciting news about a relatively new anticoagulant (blood thinner) for patients with acute coronary syndrome, and about a new HDL-cholesterol raising drug that seems quite promising.
Perhaps the biggest news … drumroll please … was about lifestyle intervention. Drs. Larry Appel and Tom Wadden reported on projects published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Dr. Appel reported the results of a telephone and Web-based approach to weight loss counseling, with about 40 percent of people losing at least 5 percent of their body weight without any in-person contact. Dr. Wadden reported the results of a weight loss program integrated into routine primary care. Medical assistants delivered behavioral counseling and advised regarding meal supplements. Both studies provide reason to be optimistic about approaches to countering the obesity epidemic that do not rely on highly trained weight-loss experts.
With more than 4,000 presentations over five days, it would be impossible to even scratch the surface of all the amazing science presented at Scientific Sessions. If you would like to learn more about the science presented this year, please visit www.heart.org/scientificsessions. If you have the opportunity to attend in the future, you will no doubt be impressed by the quality of the science presented, much of it supported at some point by AHA funding. As well as impressed the passion of the many science volunteers who, just like me, devote time to other important aspects of the mission of the AHA, including advocacy and community programs. Looking forward to working alongside each of you to carry our mission forward in 2012.
Dr. David Goff, President, Board of Directors, Mid-Atlantic Affiliate