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Charleston’s Cardiology Chief Honored for Research

Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center Chief of Cardiology Michael Zile (left) received VA’s highest award for research, the William S. Middleton Award, earlier this month for outstanding contributions to biomedical research in heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF). (Photo by James Arrowood)
Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center Chief of Cardiology Michael Zile (left) received VA’s highest award for research, the William S. Middleton Award, earlier this month for outstanding contributions to biomedical research in heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF). (Photo by James Arrowood)

Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center Chief of Cardiology Michael Zile received VA’s highest award for research, the William S. Middleton Award.

Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center Chief of Cardiology Michael Zile received VA’s highest award for research, the William S. Middleton Award, earlier this month for outstanding contributions to biomedical research in heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF), which is heart failure where the amount of blood ejected from the heart with each beat is normal. This is the largest unmet need in modern Cardiology.

Almost half of patients diagnosed with heart failure have HFpEF. These patients are at greater risk for heart arrhythmia or atrial fibrillation, frequent hospitalizations for heart failure and death due to cardiovascular issues.

An internationally recognized expert in HFpEF, Zile has formulated criteria which have been established and adopted by HF guidelines. His work has also developed predictive assessment of morbidity and mortality in these patients and has advanced novel mechanisms of disease that are now being targeted for clinical drug development. Zile’s studies have also helped identify new therapeutic targets for clinical trials and are leading to new therapies for HFpEF.

Zile said his interest in HFpEF research really started at the bedside.

“If you sit in a room and you listen to a patient, and you find out their life is not what they want it to be like and they’re suffering … if you listen closely and you’re a good scientist everyone has something important to tell you, something to contribute and something that can move the science forward,” he said.

Over the past 30 years, Zile has taken that input into the lab and, working with numerous colleagues along the way, has helped identify new areas of investigation aimed at controlling left ventricular structural remodeling and left ventricular diastolic dysfunction in patients with HFpEF. He has also been involved in clinical trials sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, DoD and industry to test effectiveness of medications and new treatments for this condition. His work is of particular importance to Veterans and patients worldwide because there are no approved therapies to treat HFpEF.

“The success I’ve had is due in large part to the VA - its partnership, collegiality, and accomplishments of everyone and this VA and all who work at VAMCs across the country,” said Zile.

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