the torch Summer 2016, Issue 2 - Page 24

“All my life I have focused my research on the treatment of heart failure. This is not a disease people necessarily understand; it’s a chronic, progressive condition that has been a very serious illness for a long time. When I first got involved in 1976, the one-year mortality was running between 30-40 percent. Now, it’s down to about 5 percent.” – Dr. Milton Packer Tell us a little about the focus of your research. All my life I have focused my research on the treatment of heart failure. This is not a disease people necessarily understand; it’s a chronic, progressive condition that has been a very serious illness for a long time. When I first got involved in 1976, the one-year mortality was running between 30–40 percent. Now, it’s down to about 5 percent. We have a better understanding of the disease and the deployment of new drugs focused on correcting the abnormalities. For a long time, physicians assumed that if you have heart failure, the problem must be in the heart. Treatments focused on making the heart stronger and they didn’t work. The research I helped to lead was the understanding that the heart had to live in a body and circulatory system. In heart failure patients, the internal balances between these systems were thoroughly disturbed. As we normalized these imbalances, the disease ceased to progress and mortality decreased markedly. Most treatments now rebalance the circulation and reduce the stress on the heart, allowing the heart to heal itself. The concept of a neuro-hormonal imbalance was first proposed in 1992. We have been working on that theory for many decades, and after many large clinical trials, have clearly established this concept as an important reason for heart failure. It’s been a terrific experience. What is the highlight of your career? Training other cardiologists. I had the privilege of spending years working together and teaching many young fellows and faculty how to think about a problem. Over time, you learn how each other thinks, and that’s an enormously personal bond that’s inseparable. These colleagues are like my professional children. They’ve taken my efforts and teachings and multiplied them. They are now the recognized leaders in the field – it’s just delightful. For more information about Baylor’s heart and vascular initiatives, contact Melissa Dalton at 214.820.2705 or Melissa.Dalton@BSWHealth.org. 24