On March 21, Rod S. Passman, MD, MSCE, was formally invested as the Jules J. Reingold Professor of Electrophysiology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Colleagues, friends, family, and patients joined Dr. Passman at a ceremony at the Ritz-Carlton to celebrate this prestigious academic position—a commemoration of Dr. Passman’s career to date and an investment in his future at Northwestern.
“Endowed professorships are the bedrock of every great university, and they represent the highest academic honor that a faculty member can obtain. I like to say that they are a punctuation mark on a career—a comma, not a period,” said Douglas E. Vaughan, MD, the Irving S. Cutter Professor of Medicine and chair of the Department of Medicine, who served as the emcee at the investiture.
The Reingold Professorship was established in honor of Julius “Jules” Jacob Reingold, a successful jeweler and hotelier who, through hard work and skill, epitomized the American Dream after immigrating to the United States in 1909 from Russia. He passed away in 1958 and left the bulk of his estate for medical research. The Jules J. Reingold trust provided Northwestern University with funds to support an endowed research professorship in cardiology.
Dr. Passman and his Northwestern Medicine colleagues are leading studies that will change the standard of patient care for those afflicted with atrial fibrillation. Dr. Passman’s group is working to develop and validate artificially intelligent algorithms that allow people to detect atrial fibrillation using “smart” watch technology. The group also is examining novel techniques for atrial fibrillation ablation designed to control the abnormal rhythm without the need for medications. Dr. Passman and his research team have recently been named as one of four national Atrial Fibrillation Strategically Focused Research Network grant recipients by the American Heart Association.
“Mr. Reingold understood that the golden age of medicine always lies ahead of us. He lived during a time when we had only rudimentary treatments for almost all cardiovascular disease, but he recognized that advancements in medicine occur incrementally, all due to the efforts of countless researchers who are willing to challenge the status quo to push science forward. He knew that while most of us are merely the recipients of medical advancements, some actually help propel it forward through their willingness to contribute to something larger than themselves,” said Dr. Passman, as he thanked Mr. Reingold and all of the new donors that have made his professorship possible.
An Innovator for Patients with Atrial Fibrillation
Dr. Passman is a highly regarded cardiac electrophysiologist, a clinician specializing in heart rhythm disorders. He joined Feinberg in 1998 as an assistant professor of Medicine in the Division of Cardiology and was awarded the title of full professor in 2013. He also holds an appointment in the Department of Preventive Medicine.
A true innovator in his field, Dr. Passman is an internationally recognized leader in cardiac monitoring and stroke prevention. As one of the first cardiac electrophysiologists to be formally trained as a clinical scientist, he has had an important role in research on atrial fibrillation. A common heart rhythm disorder, atrial fibrillation can lead to blood clots, stroke and heart failure. It is a difficult condition to treat as individuals may feel only a small number of their episodes (or may be completely asymptomatic), and episodes can be quite intermittent.
Dr. Passman pioneered the use of implantable cardiac monitors to search for atrial fibrillation in stroke patients, a strategy now part of standard practice around the world. His current research focuses on implantable and wearable heart monitors to guide the use of anticoagulants in patients with atrial fibrillation.
Clyde W. Yancy, MD, MSc, the Magerstadt Professor of Medicine and chief of Cardiology, who extolled Dr. Passman during the ceremony, spoke of Dr. Passman’s passion for studying new paradigms to treat atrial fibrillation. “He has never tired, never wavered. He has been determined to get to the next level. Clearly he has been born to run,” said Dr. Yancy, referencing a line from the classic song by Bruce Springsteen, Dr. Passman’s favorite singer.
Dr. Passman shared details about the Arrhythmia Research Center he and colleagues hope to create at Northwestern, “where we can leverage the breadth and depth of expertise at this University to improve the treatment of heart rhythm disorders and establish Northwestern as a world leader in the field of heart rhythm research.” He added, “I am delighted to share with you that we are well on our way to achieving this goal through the support of several people in this room, many of whom have been personally affected by these disorders and their sometimes devastating consequences.”
“The privilege of being invited into someone’s life, and to be entrusted with their well-being, is a unique, difficult, and yet incredibly fulfilling aspect of being a doctor. I have had the distinct pleasure of taking care of thousands and thousands of patients,” he said. “My research often comes from those experiences—trying to understand where the gaps are in our knowledge and how we can do things better.”Dr. Passman also reflected on his journey to medicine and the commitment he continues to feel for his vocation.
Members of Dr. Passman’s family attended the investiture, including his three children and wife Cybele Ghossein, MD, vice chair for Academic and Faculty Affairs in the Department of Medicine and professor of Medicine in the Division of Nephrology and Hypertension.
To his children, he said, “I hope that, like your mother and father, you find a career that you’re passionate about, that also makes the world a slightly better place in the process.”