October 7, 2021

Lindenfeld honored by Heart Failure Society of America

Vanderbilt’s JoAnn Lindenfeld, MD, has received the Pioneer Award from the Heart Failure Society of America (HFSA) for being an innovator and pioneer in the field of heart failure.

JoAnn Lindenfeld, MD

JoAnn Lindenfeld, MD, professor of Medicine, has received the Pioneer Award from the Heart Failure Society of America (HFSA) for being an innovator and pioneer in the field of heart failure.

According to the organization, “the award notes the HFSA member’s innovative role in heart failure, which helps to set the stage for future generations of heart failure providers.”

Lindenfeld has spent more than three decades studying and treating heart failure since attaining her medical degree from the University of Michigan. Following residency and fellowships at the University of California San Diego Medical Center and a fellowship at University of Texas Health Science Center, she began her career by investigating the role of anemia in the regulation of cardiac output.

That work led her to pioneer the transplant program at the University of Colorado, where she also helped found the Ludeman Family Center for Women’s Research, dedicated to cardiovascular research in women. It is now one of the top centers in the world with about $70 million in funding each year, she said. Lindenfeld was also a founding editor of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology: Heart Failure, which has been the most highly cited medical journal focusing on heart failure.

Lindenfeld served as the HFSA’s president from 2014 to 2016. During that time, she pioneered the involvement of heart failure patients in all aspects of the organization. She also expanded the roles of nurses, nurse practitioners and pharmacists, creating a multidisciplinary professional society.

Lindenfeld was chair of HFSA’s Clinical Practice Guidelines published in 2006 and 2010, and she served as vice president of the organization from 2012 to 2014. Lindenfeld is a fellow of the American Heart Association, the American College of Cardiology, the HFSA, and the European Society of Cardiology.

“It’s meaningful to have an award from your colleagues that you’ve worked closely with over the years,” Lindenfeld said. “That suggests that they want to tell you that you’ve been valuable in the care of patients and in the things that we’ve all tried to do together. It’s always nice to have that thank-you from your colleagues.”

Lindenfeld came to Vanderbilt in 2015 to become director of the Heart Failure and Transplant Section, a position assumed in July 2021 by Kelly Schlendorf, MD, associate professor of Medicine and medical director of VUMC’s adult heart transplant program.

“For me and so many others who have pursued a career in heart failure, Dr. Lindenfeld has been and continues to be an inspiring role model and generous mentor,” Schlendorf said. “She has an endless reservoir of wisdom, wit and new ideas.”

During Lindenfeld’s leadership, Vanderbilt grew to become the largest heart transplant center in the world by volume. In 2020, VUMC performed 124 heart transplants and one simultaneous heart-lung transplant, at the time its first such procedure since 2006.

“During her six-year tenure at Vanderbilt, Dr. Lindenfeld has championed patients, trainees and colleagues in heart failure and heart transplantation,” said Jane Freedman, MD, director of the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine and physician-in-chief of the Vanderbilt Heart and Vascular Institute. “Her mentorship and pioneering vision have profoundly influenced the field.”

Lindenfeld is director of research for VUMC’s Heart Failure and Transplant Section, where she oversees studies of heart failure treatments — including medical treatments, the use of cutting-edge devices and transplantation.

Her recent work has contributed to improved anticoagulation in recipients of left ventricular assist devices (LVADs) and development of models to predict the risk of peripartum cardiomyopathy and the value of cardiac resynchronization therapy in patients with New York Heart Association Class IV heart failure. Her research includes the discovery that women with heart failure are more likely to have the condition with preserved ejection fraction, the development of a model that determines specific phenotypes of heart failure with preserved ejection fraction, and the discovery that the aorta remodels significantly when subjected to non-pulsatile flow.

In addition to treating patients in Nashville, Lindenfeld has also been involved in extensive clinical outreach work. She travels to Cookeville, Tennessee, twice each month to visit heart failure patients and providers. Her past outreach work has taken her to Huntsville, Alabama, as well as the Tennessee cities of Memphis, Chattanooga and Johnson City.

Lindenfeld, a native of Benton Harbor, Michigan, said her interest in medicine came from her grandmother, who was the first woman to graduate from medical school at Northwestern University. “I was always interested because of that, and I thought it was an ideal combination of science and people,” she said.

Her passion for treating heart failure and mentoring the next generation of doctors continues to this day.

“It’s fun to have a career at a university where you have the opportunity to help patients, to help young people in their careers and to also learn new things,” she said. “To me it’s been an ideal career, having all those opportunities.”