Institute Research

The GW Heart & Vascular Institute also stimulates the development of cardiovascular research projects through a grant-making program open to The George Washington University faculty and trainees

As cardiovascular disease gains a larger foothold globally as the number one killer of people, the GW Heart & Vascular Institute has been at the forefront of cardiovascular research to closely connect research advances with the clinical practice of medicine. Our faculty publish more than 75 manuscripts, abstract presentations, and keynote scientific presentations annually.

Additionally, The Institute provides seed money to young cardiology faculty and fellows-in-training through an annual Young Investigator Research Award. These grants allow researchers to produce initial data with which they can apply for other competitive grants for further investigation and project expansion.

A. Cardiac Imaging: The ability to image the heart continues to expand dramatically. This past year our noninvasive cardiologists Brian Choi, MD, and Jannet Lewis, MD, along with other faculty and trainees published an array of manuscripts and presented abstracts at national heart meetings demonstrating advances in the use of cardiac ultrasound (echocardiography) and nuclear cardiology techniques. This research aims to improve medical diagnosis, treatment and outcomes in cardiac care.

B. Healthcare Policy: GW Heart & Vascular Institute cardiologists Steven Farmer, MD, PhD, and William Borden, MD, are recognized national leaders in the fields of population health and health policy and often serve as keynote speakers at major health policy forums. Dr. Farmer’s research addresses contemporary national health policy issues, particularly in relation to variability in medical decision making, healthcare organizational structure, payment reform, and the costs and outcomes of care. Dr. Borden’s research focuses on policy approaches to improving quality of care. Their work is published in major medical journals.

C. Women’s Heart Health:

  • Women’s risk of heart disease is complicated by known and unknown gender specific differences. Nearly 75% of cardiovascular clinical trials do not report sex-specific results, making it difficult for researchers to draw conclusions about their effects on women. GW Cardiology has been a major contributor to the National Institutes of Health sponsored Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) for over 15 years. Lisa W. Martin, MD, principle investigator, is co-author on several WHI extension studies analyzing postmenopausal women’s health.
  • Advancing community-based research is a priority of the Institute’s Women’s Heart Center. Dr. Jannet Lewis, registered dietician Kelli Metzger, and nurse practitioner Helma Parikh, launched a study assessing the nutritional habits of underserved women in D.C. The study examines probability of adherence to the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet and the socioeconomic challenges that some DC residents face in trying to access healthy foods.
  • Though women have heart attacks as frequently as men, women’s response to heart symptoms are often missed or delayed. Dr. Jannet Lewis evaluated the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ national awareness campaign, “Make the Call, Don’t Miss a Beat” using the National Emergency Medical Services Information System (NEMSIS). The mass media campaign targeted women to increase their awareness of the common symptoms of a heart attack and to call 9-1-1 right away if they experience any symptoms.

D. Heart Failure and Genomics: Washington, DC has a high prevalence of heart failure and hospital readmission rates compared to other regions in the country. Lower access to care and higher likelihood of poor control of comorbidities such as hypertension and obesity contribute to this disparity. Gurusher Panjrath, MD, and Richard Katz, MD, presented pilot innovative research utilizing community health workers and cell phone applications to help Washington, DC region patients manage heart failure. Drs. Lewis, Choi, Katz and GW cardiology fellows extended this research by evaluating the impact on hypertension of heart and lung function. The Institute’s research of heart failure aims to improving quality of life of patients and improve outcomes through personalized care. To that end, Ramesh Mazhari, MD, and Timothy McCaffrey, PhD, presented groundbreaking work on the genomics of the failing heart to improve prognosis and individualize treatment. Dr. Mazhari also published a review on stem cell therapy for heart muscle repair.

E. Prevention: Heart disease kills more than 500,000 people a year in the United States, more than all cancers combined. It is also the leading killer of women. For 50% of individuals with coronary artery disease, their first symptom is a heart attack or sudden death. Making lifestyle changes to manage key risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, obesity and smoking, can help reduce the risk of heart disease and heart attack. Our prevention experts, William Borden, MD, Steven A. Farmer, MD, and Lisa W. Martin, MD, are leading research studies in the prevention of heart disease through cholesterol management, evidence-based guidelines, and patient-centered care. 

F. Heart Rhythm Disorders: Cynthia Tracy, MD, Marco Mercader, MD, and Allen Solomon, MD, contributed to national heart rhythm practice guidelines and presented their research advances on the diagnosis and treatment of cardiac arrhythmias. Dr. Mercader presented a series of updates on his innovative atrial fibrillation catheter system. The ablation procedure uses a catheter positioned in the heart to “knock out” spots in the inner lining of the heart chamber that are the source of abnormal heart rhythms. This new technology allows cardiologists to continuously “see” the inside of the heart with light and better target areas of the heart needing treatment. Dr. Mercader’s LuxCath optical tissue interrogation system is a major milestone in the development of a visualization and optical tissue interrogation tool for cardiac ablation procedures.

G. Coronary Artery Disease:

The GW Heart & Vascular Institute is dedicated to developing new approaches to enhance patient care of coronary artery disease.

  • Ramesh Mazhari, MD, is an expert on radial artery heart catheterization, which uses the artery in the wrist, rather than traditional approach through the groin, to take pictures of the heart. Dr. Mazhari along with Drs. Jonathan Reiner and Christian Nagy presented research on transradial catheterization shows that in addition to lower risk of bleeding and need for blood transfusion, using the radial artery approach produces a lower incidence of heart catheterization related kidney damage.
  • Damaged heart muscle can lead to heart failure and death. Scott Shapiro, MD, PhD, published basic science research on stimulating damaged heart muscle to regrow after heart attacks using gene therapy.

H. Mobile Health: mHealth is the 21st Century approach to making quality-care more accessible. Richard Katz, MD, and colleagues are using mobile phones to enhance patient management of chronic disease. His ongoing research in evaluating the impact of cell phone applications on the management of diabetes and hypertension advance the field of patient-centered care that provide patients with information to help them make better-informed decisions about their care. Dr. Katz, an expert in mHealth interventions, presented his work at the American Diabetes Association, the National Institutes of Health and the American Association of the Advancement of Science.