May 7, 2012


Dean Ray Watts (second from left) visits with alumni during last month's reception in Auburn/Opelika. See a photo slideshow from the event.

Our comprehensive AMC21 Strategic Plan for the School of Medicine and the UAB Health System focuses on the areas of medical science in which UAB has identified strengths and the greatest potential for growth. It’s no surprise that cardiovascular disease was among the six focus areas in our plan. UAB has been a leader and innovator in the research and treatment of cardiovascular diseases for more than 60 years, beginning with the legendary Dr. Tinsley Harrison and Dr. John Kirklin and continuing with the team of renowned specialists here today .

I have much good news to share about the future of this key priority area. In February, the Board of Trustees gave its approval for the establishment of the new Comprehensive Cardiovascular Center at UAB, which brings together researchers and clinicians from departments and schools across our campus to focus on making discoveries that will lead to better treatments for our patients. Like our other comprehensive centers in cancer, diabetes, and neuroscience, as well as our new Comprehensive Transplant Institute, the Comprehensive Cardiovascular Center (CCVC) connects basic scientists, translational scientists, and clinicians in an effort to accelerate our efforts to find groundbreaking new treatments and diagnostic advances. As a result, we will strengthen both our contributions and our capabilities in this area.


Dr. John Chatham, Dr. Sumanth Prabhu, and Dr. Louis Dell'Italia

The Right Place at the Right Time

The CCVC leadership team is a group of internationally renowned experts in the field. Dr. Sumanth Prabhu, director of both the center and the Division of Cardiovascular Disease in the Department of Medicine, is an expert on the mechanisms of heart failure. His co-directors include Dr. John Chatham, a metabolic specialist who will oversee basic science; Dr. Louis Dell’Italia, known for his studies into the mechanisms of remodeling the heart in heart failure, who will focus on translational science; and Dr. James Kirklin, the renowned cardiothoracic surgeon and director of the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, who will direct the center’s clinical science.


Dr. James Kirklin

Our new center is at the right place at the right time. Dr. Prabhu informs me that cardiovascular research and care are at an important turning point, with specialists now working to develop therapies that will actually reverse heart disease or help recover heart function. I am eager to see the contributions that our scientists and clinicians will make as the field evolves. With the prevalence of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other cardiovascular risk factors in Alabama, we can make a profound impact and change the lives of our patients, families, and neighbors for the better, as well as advance biomedical science and medicine for global impact.


Dr. Massoud Leesar


Dr. Mark Saase


Dr. Trey Brunsting

Recruitment Successes

I am also proud of our recent recruiting efforts in cardiology and cardiothoracic surgery. Last month we welcomed Dr. Massoud Leesar as our new chief of interventional cardiology in the Division of Cardiovascular Disease and co-director of the Heart and Vascular Center. He is known nationally and internationally for his work in fractional flow reserve and intravascular ultrasound, and he has performed more than 7,000 coronary and peripheral interventions. Dr. Mark Sasse also has joined our interventional cardiology section as an associate professor, bringing extensive clinical experience and an interest in structural heart disease as well as the use of coronary intervention in sudden cardiac death and acute circulatory failure. In the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Dr. Louis “Trey” Brunsting III, our newest associate professor, is a world-renowned authority on robotic and minimally invasive cardiac surgery techniques. Last year, U.S. News & World Report listed him among the top 1 percent of physicians in robotic surgery. He also has trained more than 75 surgical teams, both around the country and internationally, on the use of advanced cardiothoracic surgical tools.

Comprehensive Cardiovascular Center
Focus Areas

• Heart failure, transplants, and mechanical devices
• Cardiac repair, recovery, and regeneration
• Arrhythmias
• Diabetes, metabolism, and myocardial ischemia
• New surgical and endovascular devices and techniques
• High blood pressure, atherosclerosis, and vascular biology
• Molecular cardiology and signaling
• Cardiac imaging and bioengineering, including nanotechnology

Strategic Investments

As the CCVC takes shape, and as our new scientists and clinicians begin their work at UAB, generous members of our community are offering their support for our initiatives. We have just received a commitment for a significant philanthropic investment over the next three years to match the School of Medicine’s investment in the new center. For both the school and this generous donor, these are truly strategic investments, because they will leverage our internal institutional funding and pay off in the form of new discoveries, therapies, and techniques that could redefine how heart disease is treated.

We are seeing similar progress in other departments and for other diseases as we move toward the goals outlined in our strategic plan. I hope that you will continue to participate in our growth by sending me questions, offering your insights, and sharing your time and resources. We have an exciting future ahead of us.

Best regards,


Senior Vice President for Medicine
Dean, School of Medicine
James C. Lee Jr. Endowed Chair