Texas Heart Institute launches unparalleled collaboration to lead research on vascular diseases in women

New program will create first-of-its-kind fellowship in the Texas Medical Center

Houston, TX (January 19, 2017) — Texas Heart Institute (THI), in conjunction with other Texas Medical Center-based partners, has launched an innovative research program specifically designed to increase knowledge and understanding of vascular diseases in women. The Women’s Research and Training Program at the Texas Heart Institute Center for Women’s Heart & Vascular Health will leverage the strength of THI and draw upon substantial basic, clinical and population research expertise at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and Baylor College of Medicine. The program also will include a first-of-it’s-kind fellowship training opportunity in the Texas Medical Center.

The program will be managed by a collaborative team including Dr. James T. Willerson and Dr. Stephanie Coulter (Texas Heart Institute), Eric Boerwinkle (Dean UT School of Public Health), Dr. Biykem Bozkurt and Dr. Christie Ballantyne (Baylor College of Medicine), and Dianna Milewicz (UT Health Science Center). Development of this unique program was made possible by a generous donation.

“A critical need exists for improved risk prediction methods and diagnostic strategies for women’s heart and vascular disease, and we are deeply honored to receive this important donation,” said James T. Willerson, MD, President of Texas Heart Institute. “By establishing this collaborative program focused on women specifically, we will ensure a rigorous and highly cooperative research environment exists, that leverages our existing relationships and infrastructure for multidisciplinary physician-scientist research and training to ultimately improve patient care.”

The goal of the new program is to gain insight into conditions known to impact women disproportionately, such as non-coronary, non-atherosclerotic, non-inflammatory cardiovascular disease, with a particular emphasis on heart failure and fibromuscular dysplasia (FMD). Gender-specific research on cardiovascular disease today continues to show discrepancies in how best to diagnose, treat and prevent the number one cause of death in women. Unfortunately, signs and symptoms of non-atherosclerotic, non-inflammatory vascular disease in women can be nonspecific, leading to delayed or inadequate diagnosis and treatment with poor outcomes.

“We are particularly interested in discovery-driven research in fibromuscular dysplasia and heart failure with preserved ejection fraction that impact women more than men,” said Stephanie Coulter, MD, Director of Texas Heart Institute’s Center for Women’s Heart & Vascular Health. “These will be the focus of some of our first projects within the program, which we believe will really help lead to meaningful and impactful discoveries to improve care for women today.”

Among all cardiovascular disease, heart failure is projected to increase by the greatest extent over the next two decades. Heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF) is projected to have the greatest increase during this timeframe and women are more than twice as likely as men to develop this condition. The risk is greatest in women with diabetes or pre-diabetes—a serious concern for our population nationwide.

The team believes strongly that development of gender-specific diagnostic, risk-assessment and preventive strategies for heart and vascular disease will improve survival and quality of life for women. They will also train physician-scientists who will continue to make discoveries to improve women’s cardiovascular health for our future generations.


About the Texas Heart Institute
The Texas Heart Institute (THI), 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, CHI St. Luke’s Health – Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center, it has been ranked among the top cardiovascular centers in the United States by U.S. News & World Report’s annual guide to “America’s Best Hospitals” for the past 25 years. More information about THI (@Texas_Heart) is available at www.texasheart.org.