James T. Willerson, MD, is the President, Director of Cardiology Research, and Co-Director of the Cullen Cardiovascular Research Laboratories at the Texas Heart® Institute (THI) at CHI St. Luke’s Health-Baylor St. Luke’s. He served as President of The University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston from 2001-2008, and he recently retired as the Edward Randall III Professor of Internal Medicine at The UT Medical School at Houston. He holds the Dunn Chair in Cardiology Research at THI, the Willerson/O'Quinn Chair at THI, the James T. Willerson, MD Distinguished Chair in Cardiovascular Diseases at UT Southwestern Medical School in Dallas, and has a swimming scholarship named in his honor at The University of Texas at Austin.
Dr. Willerson is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of UT Austin, where he was a four-year swimming letterman and a member of the Texas Cowboys of UT Austin. He is an AOA graduate of Baylor College of Medicine, and received his postgraduate training at Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Dr. Willerson is a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Science. As the longest-serving Editor-in-Chief of Circulation, the journal of the American Heart Association, his tenure lasted 11 years. In addition to having served on numerous editorial boards for professional publications, he has edited or co-edited 25 textbooks, including his signature textbook, the Third Edition of Cardiovascular Medicine, released in February 2007. He has published over 980 scientific articles in major journals.
Dr. Willerson has served as visiting professor and invited lecturer at more than 260 institutions worldwide. Included in his many awards are the "James B. Herrick Award" from the American Heart Association in 1993; the American College of Cardiology's Distinguished Scientist Award in 2000; the Distinguished Achievement Award from the Scientific Councils of the AHA in 2002; and the AHA's Distinguished Scientist Award in 2003. He was the recipient of the Gold Hart Award, the AHA's highest award, in April 2005. He has been elected a Fellow om the Royal Society of Medicine of the United Kingdom and made an Honorary Member of 10 foreign Societies of Cardiology. He is a member and past President of the Paul Dudley White Cardiology Society at HMS and MGH. In June 2004, Dr. Willerson received the Medal of Merit for Distinguished Achievements in Cardiovascular Sciences by the International Academy of Cardiovascular Sciences. In 2005, he received the "Lifetime Achievement Award" presented at the 17th Annual Transcatheter Cardiovascular Therapeutics Scientific Symposium on behalf of the Cardiovascular Research Foundation in Washington, DC. In 2006, Dr. Willerson received the Libin Award in Cardiovascular research in Alberta, Canada; the "Living Legend Award" for achievement in cardiovascular research from the 16th World Congress of the World Society of Cardiothoracic Surgeons in Ottawa, Canada; and the "Most Outstanding Cardiologist, 2006" award from the Cardiovascular Society and Medical School of Shanghai, China. He also received the Katz Research Prize from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York City, New York, 2007. Dr. Willerson was elected President of the International Society for Cardiovascular Sciences based in Winnipeg, Canada, and is serving from 2011-2014. From 2009-2010, he served as President of the Board of the American Heart Association, Houston Chapter. The James T. Willerson Distinguished Chair in Cardiology was named in his honor at the Brown Foundation Institute of Molecular Medicine for the Prevention of Human Diseases at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston in 2009. In June 2009, he was elected to The University of Texas Hall of Honor for accomplishments in varsity swimming from 1957-1961 and for ongoing professional contributions in the field of medicine. In September of 2009, he received the Ray C. Fish Award from Texas Heart Institute for "An individual whose endeavors have made significant contributions to cardiovascular medicine or surgery."
Dr. Willerson sees patients on a daily basis from a patient population of more than 2,000. Dr. Willerson's research concentrates on the detection and treatment of unstable atherosclerotic plaques, and the discovery of the genes and abnormal proteins responsible for cardiovascular disease. In addition, Dr. Willerson and colleagues Drs. Emerson Perin and Ed T.H. Yeh have been directly involved in seminal research in the use of stem cells for the repair of hearts and cardiovascular vessels injured by heart attacks, and they are responsible for major discoveries, landmark publications, and for Texas Heart Institute's being awarded the first FDA-approved clinical trial in the use of adult, human stem cells to treat ischemic cardiomyopathies and congestive heart failure in humans. As a result of discoveries in his research, Dr. Willerson has been awarded 14 patents.
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