To date, the Heart of a Champion Research Fund has granted awards to nine impressive investigators. Their work has already begun to have a substantial impact on cardiovascular research at Michigan. Their examples epitomize the vision that drives the Heart of a Champion Research Fund.
2016 Award Winner:
Yogen Kanthi, M.D. CD39 in arterialization of Vein Grafts
Dr. Yogen Kanthi grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio. He completed his residency training in Internal Medicine in Cleveland, at University Hospitals of Cleveland/Case Western Reserve University. Dr. Kanthi initially envisioned a career as a clinical heart failure specialist. A strong desire to improve our understanding of human diseases, merged with scientific curiosity and formative experiences with scientific mentors led him to explore a career as a physician scientist. The depth of expertise across clinical and scientific areas at the University of Michigan made it a natural choice for him to pursue further training here. Dr. Kanthi completed clinical and research training in cardiology, and over a five year period developed a focused interest in vascular biology with mentorship from Dr. David Pinsky. His interest in vascular diseases led him to create a new training program in Vascular Medicine with his clinical mentor, Dr. Jim Froehlich at the University of Michigan. While taking care of patients, Dr. Kanthi observed that people with coronary and leg artery bypass grafts frequently needed re-operation, or lost limbs to amputation. Using a multidisciplinary approach that combines biomedical engineering with vascular medicine, Dr. Kanthi has been exploring the molecular processes underlying bypass graft failure, to improve the longevity of grafts and reduce the need for re-operations and limb amputation. Read more>
2015 Award Winner:
Scott Visovatti, M.D. | Metabolomics-Based Screening for Scleroderma-Associated Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension
Dr. Scott Visovatti grew up in Evanston, Illinois. He first moved to Ann Arbor to attend the University of Michigan as an undergraduate during the great era of coach Bo Schembechler. He then moved to Boston, where he attended Boston University Medical School, developed a passion for medical research at Brigham and Women's Hospital and fell in love with his wife, Moira.
Dr. Visovatti returned to Ann Arbor for his residency, chief residency and cardiovascular medicine training. Over this eight-year period he became a vascular biologist under the research mentorship of Dr. David Pinsky. With clinical mentorship from Dr. Vallerie McLaughlin and Dr. Dinesh Khanna, Dr. Visovatti began to explore the triggers for a particularly deadly form of pulmonary hypertension that develops in patients with a rheumatologic condition called "scleroderma." Read more>
2015 Award Winner:
Bo Yang, M.D. | Understanding the role genetic mutations play in aortic complications
Dr. Yang attended medical school at Hunan Medical School and subsequently started his residency in cardiothoracic surgery at Xiangya Hospital, both located in Changsha, China. In 1998, he moved to the United States to attend the University of Arizona where he obtained his Ph.D. in pharmacology and toxicology. Following this, he completed an internship and residency in general surgery at the University of Arizona. His cardiothoracic surgery fellowship was completed in 2011 at Stanford University Medical Center in California. Dr. Yang joined the Department of Cardiac Surgery at the University of Michigan in July 2011 and practices adult cardiac surgery with a focus on aortic surgery and heart valve surgery. Read more>
2014 Award Winner:
Santhi Ganesh, M.D.
Santhi Ganesh, M.D., embodies the spirit and achievement of that category of person known as a "champion." For starters, she's brilliant — a gifted physician and researcher of diseases affecting the human heart. And she's dedicated — leading consortiums of researchers, authoring multiple papers at a time and maintaining affiliations to prestigious health institutes amid her regular obligations as a doctor and scientist at the University of Michigan.
Most importantly, however, Dr. Ganesh is tenacious. Driven to find solutions for preventing and curing some of the most elusive diseases of the heart, she reveals her extraordinary capacity to keep going and persevere where there are no easy answers. For all of these reasons — and the future promise that her work holds — Dr. Santhi Ganesh has earned the 2014 Bo Schembechler Heart of a Champion Award.Read more>
2013 Award Winner:
Katherine Gallagher, M.D. | The Role of Stem Cells in Diabetic Wound Healing
Despite significant advances in the treatment of type 2 diabetes and peripheral vascular disease in recent years, doctors have made little progress in addressing the disease's impact on poor wound healing. For patients living with diabetes, nerve damage, narrow arteries and a weakened immune system can turn a minor injury into a life-threatening medical complication. Diabetes is responsible for more than 65,000 leg and foot amputations each year, which are associated with a significant increase in patient mortality. Meanwhile, the total cost of treating diabetic wounds is more than $10 billion per year, so even small improvements in care could lead to significant cost savings in addition to improvements to individuals' quality of life. This is exactly what assistant professor of surgery, Dr. Katherine Gallagher is focusing her research on: finding therapies and ways to improve healing in diabetic wounds so they don't progress to the point of requiring amputation.Read more>
2012 Award Winner:
Thor Thorsson, M.D. | Searching for the Genetic Origins of Heart Defects
Congenital heart defects are the most common type of birth defect, impacting about one in 100 live births. Babies born with severe defects such as hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS) face the greatest risk. Advances in surgical and medical care—many of them pioneered here at Michigan—have greatly improved the outcomes for these vulnerable patients, but research indicates that survival rates have plateaued in recent years. To make further improvements, many more questions must be answered about what causes these defects. 2012 Heart of a Champion award-winner Thor Thorsson is the right person to ask these questions, and Michigan is the right place to answer them. Read more>
2011 Award Winner:
Will Meurer, M.D., M.S. | Stroke and the
Assistant professor of both neurology and emergency medicine. Dr. Meurer cares for stroke patients every day at University Hospital. Every stroke is a critical emergency but not all strokes are the same. Small subsets of patients suffer a severe episode known as a subarachnoid hemorrhage, caused by the bursting of one of the primary blood vessels to the brain. During this event the heart is impacted as well, the result of distress signals sent from the brain to the heart. Science has yet to explain this current brain-heart connection but Dr. Meurer is out to change that. Read more>
2010 Award Winner:
Oliver Kripfgans, Ph.D. | Cardiac Imaging
Research assistant professor of radiology. Dr. Kripfgans is investigating a non-invasive approach for estimating cardiac output: a 3-dimensional ultrasound method that can be used to measure blood volume flow in a wide variety of clinical applications, including estimation of cardiac output in adult, pediatric and prenatal patients. His work is advancing the study of the one organ that is in constant motion - the heart. Read more>
2009 Award Winner:
Adam Stein, M.D. | Epigenetics
Clinical lecturer in cardiovascular medicine. Dr. Stein has found that epigenetics - the study of factors in addition to DNA that can be inherited and can impact cellular appearance and function - is providing answers to how the heart ages and how it responds to disease. His lab is working to determine whether changing specific epigenetic markers may be able to improve heart function. Read more>