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The purpose of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) Gold Medal is to recognise the outstanding achievements of exceptional cardiologists for their contribution to medicine. This year’s recipients are echocardiographer Professor Anthony DeMaria (Judy and Jack White Chair in Cardiology, UCSD Medical Center, Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, San Diego, USA) and interventional cardiologist Professor William Wijns (National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland).
The ESC Gold Medal, says Prof. DeMaria, provides “tangible evidence” that the hard work and sacrifices made by himself and family have “yielded something of value”. He says: “My career was in large measure determined by being in the right place at the right time, and getting to work with really talented people.”
Indeed, DeMaria’s introduction to echocardiography occurred after he stumbled across a lecture by Harvey Feigenbaum (the Father of Echocardiography) at an American Heart Association meeting. The encounter inspired DeMaria to become an early adopter of M-mode, followed by 2D, pulse Doppler and 3D. Prof. DeMaria embarked on a research programme undertaking observational studies using echocardiography in mitral prolapse, left bundle branch block and Wolff-Parkinson White Syndrome, and later his work on microbubbles opened up the field of myocardial contrast echo as a method to examine myocardial perfusion.
More recently, he has been involved in trials using stem cell preparations to improve clinical outcomes in ischaemic cardiomyopathy, and he is exploring ways to track the location and survival of stem cells after injection.
Prof. DeMaria’s other career milestones include becoming the youngest-ever president of the American College of Cardiology in 1988, and being Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology from 2002 to 2014. Being entrusted to evaluate the research of others, he describes as “an awesome and sacred responsibility”. In this post, he relished writing his monthly editor’s page, focused on the human aspects of medicine, altogether clocking up more than 120 editorials. However, Prof. DeMaria feels that his most enduring contribution has been overseeing the training of “some extraordinarily talented cardiologists”, who went on to become “thought-leaders in their medical communities”.
Throughout Prof. DeMaria’s career the ESC Congress has been a fixture in his calendar. He notes: “I think the ESC Congresses that I have attended have gotten better and better every year”.
Prof. Wijns modestly believes that his ESC Gold Medal is in recognition of the entire field of percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), which this year celebrates its 40 anniversary, rather than just his own contribution. But, there can be little doubt Prof. Wijns—who in 2006 facilitated the merging of EuroPCR and the ESC Working Group on Coronary Intervention into the European Association for Percutaneous Cardiovascular Intervention (EAPCI)—is a major figure head in PCI. “The EAPCI has been really good for patients because concepts like the heart team are much more obvious to implement when you don’t work in isolation on your little interventional island,” he says.
Prof. Wijns is also co-director of EuroPCR, a world-leading course in interventional cardiovascular medicine which each May brings together 12,000 participants in Paris, chairman of PCR and a deputy editor of the European Heart Journal.
Highlights of Prof. Wijn’s time with the ESC include his chairmanship of the ESC Congress Programme Committee (2002– 2004), the European Health Charter in 2007, and the Stent for Life initiative. He launched it with Professor Petr Widimsky in 2008 to encourage better access to life-saving primary PCI interventions for acute myocardial infarction, focusing on European countries where implementation of reperfusion therapies was lagging behind. The success of this programme justifies its current extension to other continents including South East Asia, Latin America and Africa. He has also enjoyed a distinguished research career outside coronary interventions, showing that under repeated and chronic ischaemic conditions, heart cells change their phenotypes, accumulating glycogen and losing contractile proteins, and has undertaken stem cell research for acute myocardial infarction and heart failure. The ESC Congress, he maintains, provides the perfect opportunity for interventional cardiologists to network with other colleagues. “You gain new insights that help to give you a different appreciation of your work when you get home,” he says. “With the ever-increasing powerful synergy between
The ESC Congress, he maintains, provides the perfect opportunity for interventional cardiologists to network with other colleagues. “You gain new insights that help to give you a different appreciation of your work when you get home,” he says. “With the ever-increasing powerful synergy between device and drug-based therapies, it offers a unique opportunity to learn about the latest progress in pharmacotherapy.”
Click here to read other scientific highlights in the full edition of the Congress news.
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