December 20, 2012

Cardiovascular Medicine chief Sawyer stepping down

Doug Sawyer, M.D., Ph.D., is stepping down as director of the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine. (Photo by Joe Howell)

Doug Sawyer, M.D., Ph.D., Lisa M. Jacobson Chair of Cardiovascular Medicine and Professor of Medicine and Pharmacology, will step down as director of the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine and physician-in-chief of the Vanderbilt Heart and Vascular Institute (VHVI), effective April 1, 2013. Sawyer will continue to pursue his clinical, teaching and research endeavors at VHVI.

Thomas Wang, M.D., director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Heart Failure Disease Management Program and associate director of the Heart Failure/Transplantation Section, will succeed Sawyer.

“Since 2008, Doug has led the division through a period of tremendous growth in the collaborative care of patients in the Vanderbilt Heart and Vascular Institute,” said Nancy Brown, M.D., chair of the Department of Medicine.

Visits to both the main campus and outreach clinics have seen tremendous growth in the last four years, with about 61,000 patient visits in 2008 compared to 118,622 visits in FY 2012.

That growth has come with exciting advances in care by cardiologists and cardiac surgeons at Vanderbilt working together to implement such advances as trans-catheter valve replacement, therapeutic hypothermia, stem cell therapies and genetic-based prescribing of anti-platelet and cholesterol-lowering drugs.

Sawyer’s research interests lie in how the heart repairs itself. In collaboration with Acorda Therapeutics Inc., and with the support of a National Institutes of Health grant, Sawyer and other Vanderbilt researchers are studying the safety of Glial Growth Factor 2 (GGF2) in patients with systolic heart failure. GGF2 has been shown to protect heart muscle and restore cardiac function in preclinical models of heart failure.

In 2009 VUMC was named one of the nine research hubs of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute Progenitor Cell Biology Consortium, a seven-year research initiative to develop the field of stem and progenitor cell tools and therapies. Sawyer is one of three investigators involved in the Vanderbilt research team, along with Antonis Hatzopoulos, Ph.D., and Scott Baldwin, M.D.

Sawyer facilitated the growth of the Advanced Heart Failure and Ventricular Assist Device program, with exponential growth in the cardiac transplant program. He was instrumental in the creation of the Center for Inherited Heart Disease, a unique center focused on the diagnosis and management of inherited cardiovascular disease in both pediatric and adult patients.

“Doug has also been committed to promoting the reduction in cardiovascular health disparities,” Brown said.

In 2010, the Association of Black Cardiologists presented the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine with its inaugural Diversity Award in recognition of the Meharry/Vanderbilt Cardiology Fellowship Program and Vanderbilt’s recruitment of diverse cardiovascular trainees.

“It has been an honor and a privilege to lead the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine. Together, as a team, all of us at VHVI have worked hard to change the landscape of heart care in Nashville and we will continue on this strong trajectory,” Sawyer said.