Dr. C.J. Van Slyke became the first Director of the National Heart Institute 6 weeks after President Harry S. Truman signed the National Heart Act.
Under his leadership, the Institute established four Cooperative Research Units, which were jointly funded by the universities and the Institute; established the Institute's intramural program of laboratory and clinical research; and acquired and redesigned the landmark Framingham Study, which continues to yield important epidemiological evidence on cardiovascular and other diseases.
Dr. Van Slyke left the Institute to become Associate Director of the National Institutes of Health for six years, and then was named the first NIH Deputy Director, until his retirement in 1959. He had first joined NIH as Chief of the Division of Research Grants and Fellowships in 1946 after a distinguished career of experimental research in venereal disease, which began in 1936 and culminated in being named Assistant Chief of the Venereal Disease Division in Washington, D.C. in 1944. He had entered the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps in 1928 and was assimilated into the Regular Corps in 1932. He received a Lasker Award in 1957.
Dr. Van Slyke died in 1966.
Dr. James Watt served with distinction for 30 years in the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS).
His early research helped lead to control measures to reduce the incidence of major diarrheal diseases, a major cause of death among children. He continued his research focus by establishing an NIH-supported research center at Louisiana State University in 1948. While he was the National Heart Institute Director, the first patient for heart disease research was admitted to the NIH clinical center.
In 1961, Dr. Watt was named Chief Assistant to the Surgeon General and led the PHS Office of International Health; he also became one of the first recipients of the prestigious Bronfman Prize for Public Health Achievement. He was named special assistant to the Surgeon General for program review in 1967 and retired from PHS in 1968.
Dr. Watt died in 1995.
Dr. Ralph E. Knutti is internationally known for his achievements in advancing medical education and training in the biomedical sciences.
After earning his medical degree from Yale University in 1928, he taught in the pathology departments at the University of Rochester and University of Southern California Medical School. Joining the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps in 1951, he was assigned to the National Institute of Arthritis and Metabolic Diseases to lead its extramural research and training programs and was named Associate Director of Extramural Programs in 1960. He joined the National Heart Institute as director in 1961 and established the artificial heart program in 1964. After retiring in 1965, he served as executive officer of Universities Associated for Research and Education in Pathology until his final retirement in 1972.
Dr. Knutti died in 1994.
Dr. William Stewart served as director of the National Heart Institute for two months before being named U.S. Surgeon General in 1965.
He was the first Surgeon General to require health warnings on cigarette packs. Dr. Stewart oversaw two reorganizations and the integration of the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS). Previously, he had served briefly in the U.S. Army Medical Corps and was transferred into the Epidemic Intelligence Service at the Communicable Disease Center, which later became the CDC.
In 1951, he joined the PHS Commissioned Corps and subsequently held several leadership positions, including as Assistant to the Special Assistant to the Secretary (Health and Medical Affairs) immediately prior to leading the heart institute in 1965. He had previously been with the Institute as a grants trainee in 1953 and as chief of the Technical Services Branch in 1956.
After serving as Surgeon General from 1965 to 1969, he returned to his alma mater, Louisiana State University (LSU) Medical Center, to serve as Chancellor and Chairman of two departments. He was also Secretary of the state health department from 1974 to 1977.
He retired from LSU in 1986 and died in 2008.
Dr. Robert Grant served only 5 months as Director of the National Heart Institute when sudden cardiac death tragically cut his tenure short in August 1966.
He had served in the Medical Corps of the U.S. Air Force from 1942 to 1945. After furthering his medical training, he was on the faculty of Emory University from 1947 to 1950, where he developed the concept and techniques for spatial vector electrocardiography, Dr. Grant entered the U.S. Public Health Service and joined the National Heart Institute in 1950, conducting research in electrocardiography, cardiac pathology, and clinical cardiology until administering the Institute’s training grants and fellowship awards program, 1959-1961. He joined the NIH Office of International Research and was named chief of the European Office in Paris.
Dr. Grant is credited with transforming the study of heart attacks when, as director of the National Heart Institute, he established a network of nine Myocardial Infarction Research Units around the country. These units built clinical and basic research into state-of-the-art Coronary Care Units and laid the groundwork for the Specialized Centers of Research program, which continue to be a core NHLBI research mechanism.
Dr. Donald Fredrickson's NIH career spanned nearly three decades, beginning in 1953 when he joined the staff of the National Heart Institute as a researcher and ending in 1981 when he completed six years' service as NIH Director.
A prominent biomedical scientist known worldwide for discoveries on lipid metabolism, in 1965 he and his colleagues introduced a system for classifying blood-lipid abnormalities, which became an international standard for identifying increased risk of heart disease. He also discovered two genetic diseases related to cholesterol transport and an enzyme deficiency.
Committed to integrating laboratory research with clinical practice, he served as Chief of the Molecular Diseases Branch (1966-74), in part while directing the Institute. He also led the Institute's intramural research division, from 1969 to 1974. He served as President of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences from 1974 to 1975 before being named NIH Director in 1975. In 1981, he returned to the National Academy of Sciences as a visiting scholar. He was Vice President, then President and CEO, of Howard Hughes Medical Institute from 1983 to1987, until becoming a scholar at the National Library of Medicine.
Dr. Fredrickson died in 2002.
As a heart surgeon and researcher, Dr. Theodore Cooper made many major scientific contributions through his work at NIH, especially on cardiac transplantation and artificial hearts, ventricular innervation and function, and myocardial infarction.
His accomplishments included establishment of new funding mechanisms such as Specialized Centers of Research. He led the National Heart Institute through significant growth and expanded authority, including redesignation as the National Heart and Lung Institute, coordination of the National Sickle Cell Disease Program, and establishment of the National High Blood Pressure Education Program, a model educational program and the first at NIH to bring the research community into collaboration with industry and academia.
During the Nixon and Ford administrations, Dr. Cooper served as Deputy Assistant then Assistant Secretary for Health (1974-77), where he helped shape policy on heart disease, nutrition and AIDS. From 1977 to 1980, he was Cornell University's provost for medical affairs and dean of Cornell University Medical College. In 1980, Dr. Cooper joined Upjohn Company, where he served as chairman and chief executive from 1987 until his death in 1993.
Dr. Robert Levy, a pioneer of preventive cardiology, joined the Institute in 1963 and was noted for helping to develop a widely used classification system of lipid disorders as well as studying how diet and drugs can lower cholesterol.
Leading the Division of Heart and Vascular Diseases from 1973 to 1975, Dr. Levy established a network of Lipid Research Clinics and oversaw the Coronary Primary Prevention Trial, the first study to prove that lowering blood cholesterol reduces heart disease risk. In 1976, the Institute expanded to include blood diseases and was renamed the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. During Dr. Levy's tenure, the National High Blood Pressure Education Program was implemented. He was a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies.
Dr. Levy left NHLBI to become Vice President and Dean of Tufts University Medical School and later became Vice President at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. He was president of Sandoz Research Institute and of the Wyeth-Ayers Research Division of American Home Products (AHP) before being named as senior vice president for science and technology at AHP.
Dr. Levy died in 2000.
Dr. Claude Lenfant was the longest serving Director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, leading it for 21 years until retiring in 2003.
He brought the Institute into the modern era of science with landmark initiatives such as the Programs of Excellence in Molecular Biology, the Proteomics Initiative, and NIH's first gene therapy protocol. The Institute's focus expanded with the establishment of the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research (1993) and oversight of the Women's Health Initiative (1997), while continuing its commitment to heart, lung, and blood disorders and blood safety.
As Director, he forged collaborations with scientific and clinical leaders to develop clinical guidelines for high blood pressure, asthma, cholesterol, and obesity. His legacy also included several important professional, public, and patient education programs, such as the Smoking Education Program (1985), National Cholesterol Education Program (1985), National Asthma Education and Prevention Program (1989), Act in Time to Heart Attack Signs (2001), and the Women's Heart Health Campaign (2001), which evolved into the widely recognized The Heart Truth campaign.
Previously, Dr. Lenfant directed the NIH Fogarty International Center and the Institute's lung division after serving as Professor of medicine and physiology and biophysics at the University of Washington, Seattle.
After becoming Director in 2005, Dr. Nabel oversaw an extensive national portfolio of research to prevent, diagnose, and treat heart, lung, and blood diseases.
Under her leadership, the Institute released a Strategic Plan to help guide NHLBI’s scientific directions over the next five to ten years. In addition, she continued and expanded the Institute’s commitment to professional, public, and patient education programs. A cardiologist with extensive clinical experience, Dr. Nabel made many contributions to basic and clinical research on the pathogenesis and treatment of cardiovascular diseases.
Dr. Nabel joined NHLBI in 1999 as the Institute’s Scientific Director of Clinical Research. Prior to coming to NHLBI, Dr. Nabel was Chief of the Division of Cardiology at the University of Michigan where she became known for her research in the molecular genetics of cardiovascular diseases and strategies for gene transfer to benefit patients with those diseases. At the NHLBI, her research focused on the role of genetic factors in blood vessel diseases. Dr. Nabel served as a Visiting Professor at major medical centers throughout the country and delivered major lectures in Europe and Australia. She received numerous awards for her scientific accomplishments and is a partner on 16 patents.
Dr. Nabel currently serves as the President of Brigham and Women's/Faulkner Hospitals in Boston.
Susan B. Shurin, M.D., was deputy director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). As deputy director, Dr. Shurin represented the NHLBI in a wide variety of activities across the NIH and the Department of Health and Human Services.
Dr. Shurin joined the NHLBI as deputy director in February 2006, coming from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. In her role as deputy director, Dr. Shurin has been involved in multiple intramural and extramural activities of the NHLBI and responsible for oversight of the Institute's clinical research portfolio. In October 2009, Dr. Shurin assumed the role of acting director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) while continuing to serve as the deputy director of NHLBI.
In December 2009, Dr. Shurin was named acting director of the NHLBI and served in this role until August 2012. As acting director, she oversaw an extensive national research portfolio with an annual budget of approximately $3 billion. Through the support of research from bench to bedside, Dr. Shurin led the NHLBI's effort to transform new scientific knowledge into tangible improvements in health. As part of the NIH's global commitment, Dr. Shurin oversees the NHLBI's Global Health Initiative, which includes a network of Collaborating Centers of Excellence in low- and middle-income countries, focused on building sustainable programs to combat chronic cardiovascular and lung diseases. In November 2011, Dr. Shurin was elected chair of the Global Alliance for Chronic Diseases (GACD), of which the NHLBI is a founding member. During her two-year term, the GACD is establishing working groups to focus on disease areas, engaging other NIH institutes, and overseeing the first GACD RFA, "Reducing the Impact of Hypertension in Low and Middle Income Countries."
Before joining the NHLBI, Dr. Shurin was Professor of Pediatrics and Oncology at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio; Director of Pediatric Hematology-Oncology at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital; Director of Pediatric Oncology at the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center; and Vice President and Secretary of the Corporation at Case Western Reserve University.
Dr. Shurin received her education and medical training at Harvard University and the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Her laboratory research focused on the physiology of phagocyte function, recognition and killing of pathogens; mechanisms of hemolysis, red blood cell destruction; and iron overload, a serious chronic condition in which the body absorbs too much iron leading to a buildup in organ tissues.
She has been active in clinical research in many aspects of pediatric hematology-oncology, including participation in the Children's Cancer Group (CCG), now the Children's Oncology Group, as well as multiple studies in sickle cell disease and hemostasis. She also served on the Executive Committee of the CCG and founded and chaired the CCG Bioethics Committee.
Among other leadership efforts, Dr. Shurin served on multiple NIH advisory panels. She has been on the boards or in leadership positions of numerous local and national professional organizations, including the American Board of Pediatrics. She is a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics; the American Society of Hematology; the American Society of Pediatric Hematology‐Oncology; and the American Pediatric Society, where she is currently a member of the APS Council.
Dr. Shurin followed in the footsteps of two celebrated family pediatrician role models. Her maternal grandfather, Park Jerauld White, M.D., was a distinguished pediatrician practicing in St. Louis, Missouri, where he was a social activist and advocate for the interests and needs of children. Her great-aunt, Katherine Bain, M.D., practiced with Dr. White before joining Martha Elliott, M.D., in 1941 at the Children's Bureau (now the Office of Maternal and Child Health at the Health Resources and Services Administration).