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Team effort boosts study of tachycardia syndrome

Jul. 24, 2014, 9:14 AM

Vanderbilt University’s Satish Raj, M.D., MSCI, was very busy ­— and very visible — at the Dysautonomia International Conference in Washington, D.C., earlier this month.

Not only was he named 2014 Physician of the Year by the organization, which raises awareness and research support for disorders such as Postural Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), but he and his colleagues recruited 180 volunteers for a survey-based study of the disorder.

Satish Raj, M.D., MSCI, (back row, center) at the recent Dysautonomia International Conference in Washington, D.C., with, from left, Luis Okamoto, M.D., Matthew Weinstein, Sachin Paranjape, B.S., and Bonnie Black, R.N., N.P. In front are Cindy Dorminy, M.Ed., L.P.N., and Leslie Bodie (holding plaque), who nominated Raj for the award.

That’s nearly 50 percent of the 400 people who attended the conference. “Pretty impressive,” said Raj, associate professor of Medicine and Pharmacology and consultant to the Vanderbilt Autonomic Dysfunction Center.

“It was due to a large team effort from Vanderbilt, help from a local lab and countless volunteers,” mainly from Dysautonomia International and also POTS UK, a British group that raised funds for the effort, he said.

As for the award, Raj said it recognizes all of the Vanderbilt researchers and clinicians in the Autonomic Dysfunction Center and “their efforts to improve the lives of patients with dysautonomia.” He was nominated by Leslie Bodie, who has participated in POTS studies at Vanderbilt.

POTS is an abnormally rapid heart rate or tachycardia upon standing affecting 500,000 Americans, mostly young women. Recently Raj and colleagues at the University of Oklahoma reported that circulating “autoantibodies,” possibly triggered by viral illness, may contribute to the disorder.

The Autonomic Dysfunction Center, established in the late 1970s by David Robertson, M.D., Rose Marie Robertson, M.D., and Italo Biaggioni, M.D., is part of the Rare Diseases Clinical Research Network funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Raj also is associate director of the Master of Science in Clinical Investigation program at Vanderbilt, and a member of the Dysautonomia International medical advisory board. Last year he received one of the organization’s first four research grants to study a potential treatment for POTS-related cognitive impairment.

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