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Dr. James Willerson to Receive
2007 Katz Prize in Cardiovascular Research

James T. Willerson, MD

James T. Willerson, MD
2007 Lewis Katz Visiting Professorship in Cardiovascular Research

HOUSTON (October 22, 2007) Columbia University Medical Center today announced the 2007 Katz Prizes in Cardiovascular Research, which include recognition for internationally distinguished cardiologist James T. Willerson, M.D., president-elect of Texas Heart Institute at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital and president of The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.

Willerson will receive the Lewis Katz Visiting Professorship in Cardiovascular Research for excellence in cardiovascular research and education.

The second of two awards recognizes Thomas G. Diacovo, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics and pathology and director of Neonatal and Critical Care Medicine at Columbia University Medical Center, who has been awarded the Lewis Katz Cardiovascular Research Prize for a Young Investigator.

The awards will be presented October 30 at a dinner following an afternoon lecture by Willerson.

“Dr. Willerson and Dr. Diacovo are both outstanding scientists, representing the high level of excellence in cardiovascular research and education that we honor with the Katz Prizes,” said Allan Schwartz, M.D., chief of the Division of Cardiology at Columbia University Medical Center. “Dr. Willerson’s long career of research breakthroughs and his history of training many of today’s outstanding cardiologists make him a leader in the field, and Dr. Diacovo’s innovative investigations into the biophysical and structural mechanisms underlying blood clot formation hold great promise for expediting the development and testing of life-saving drugs to treat cardiovascular disease. It is a privilege to honor both of them with this award.” 

The Katz Prizes were created at Columbia University Medical Center through the generosity of entrepreneur and philanthropist Lewis Katz to recognize excellence in cardiovascular research and education. The prizes, each $100,000, are awarded to two outstanding physician-scientists annually. This is the second year of the awards.

“I am humbled and honored by the award of the 2007 Lewis Katz Visiting Professorship in Cardiovascular Research. The generosity of Mr. Katz and the leadership of the Columbia University Medical Center is overwhelming,” Willerson said. “It is most significant and fitting that Mr. Katz and Columbia also honor a young investigator. This prestigious recognition is shared with my family and those colleagues who have worked with me throughout my career.”

Willerson has been at the forefront of cardiovascular research, discovery, and education throughout his career. His recent work has concentrated on elucidating mechanisms responsible for the conversion from stable to unstable coronary artery disease syndromes, the prevention of unstable angina, and acute myocardial infarction. Willerson and colleagues at the Texas Heart Institute now lead one of the first FDA-approved clinical trials to treat patients with end-stage heart disease using bone marrow-derived stem cells.

The generous founder of these prizes, Lewis Katz, is the former owner of Kinney Parking Systems, a trustee of Temple University and Dickinson School of Law at the Pennsylvania State University, and a founding member of the Boys and Girls Club of Camden County, N.J. He is a partner of the New Jersey Nets and New York Yankees Baseball.


The Texas Heart Institute, founded by world-renowned cardiovascular surgeon Dr. Denton A. Cooley in 1962, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing the devastating toll of cardiovascular disease through innovative and progressive programs in research, education and improved patient care. Together with its clinical partner, St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital, it has been ranked among the top ten cardiovascular centers in the United States by U.S. News & World Report’s annual guide to “America’s Best Hospitals” for the past 17 years. The Texas Heart Institute is also affiliated with the University of Texas (UT) System, which promotes collaboration in cardiovascular research and education among UT and THI faculty at the Texas Heart Institute and other UT components. For more information about the Institute, please visit


Kathy Watson
Texas Heart Institute


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