December 7, 2007

New prevention program takes aim at heart care

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Emily Kurtz, M.D., directs the cardiovascular intervention program. (photo by Neil Brake)

New prevention program takes aim at heart care

Fresh from a cardiology fellowship, Emily Kurtz, M.D., is taking on a leadership role in implementing the Vanderbilt cardiovascular prevention program at One Hundred Oaks, scheduled to open next year.

The hallmark of the prevention program is its comprehensive approach to assessing and managing both traditional and novel risk factors that contribute to heart and vascular disease, with the goal of preventing or delaying the onset of an initial cardiovascular event, such as a heart attack.

“Most people believe you don't need to see a cardiologist until you develop angina or have had a heart attack. As a preventive cardiologist, my interest is in identifying and modifying predictors of risk in people who have not yet had a cardiac event,” said Kurtz, assistant professor of Medicine and director of the cardiovascular prevention program.

In addition, the clinic will care for patients with established cardiovascular disease to reduce recurrent cardiovascular events and decrease mortality. All patients will benefit from comprehensive, evidence-based cardiovascular screening and diagnostic testing, as well as from advanced assessment of unique risk factors using blood tests and non-invasive imaging techniques.

If initial screening or symptoms warrant further testing, patients will have access to the latest imaging technology, such as coronary CT angiography and cardiac MRI.

Kurtz, who completed her residency and fellowship at Vanderbilt, spent a year at the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston in the Division of Preventive Medicine working on the Women's Health Study. Her research there evaluated the influence of serum biomarkers on cardiovascular risk in postmenopausal women.

“Clinical research within the Vanderbilt cardiovascular prevention program will primarily focus on helping clarify the role of inflammatory and thrombotic factors and other biomarkers in the development of atherosclerosis and the vulnerability of plaque to rupture,” Kurtz said.

“Within the Vanderbilt community, we have, to our great advantage, several international leaders with expertise in related modifiers of cardiovascular health,” said C. Wright Pinson, M.D., M.B.A., associate vice chancellor for Clinical Affairs and chief medical officer. “Under Dr. Kurtz's direction, and with the collaboration of these leaders, Vanderbilt will set the standard for preventive cardiology."

In addition to its clinical patient care and research components, education of patients and the public will be a major focus of the program. The program offers consultations with a registered dietitian and an exercise physiologist, and multidisciplinary collaboration with other subspecialty physicians as needed.

“We plan to establish long-term relationships with our patients,” Kurtz said. “Our goals are early detection and management of cardiovascular risk factors using personalized lifestyle and medical management to reduce each patient's lifetime risk of cardiovascular disease.”