Clyde Yancy, MD, chief of the Division of Cardiology and the Magerstadt Professor at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, joined the medical school earlier this year. Dr. Yancy’s medical appointments include serving as associate director of clinical programs for the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute. Most recently the medical director for Baylor Heart and Vascular Institute and the chief of cardiothoracic transplantation for Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, Yancy is the immediate-past president of the American Heart Association (AHA).
What brought you to Feinberg?
Feinberg is an extraordinary institution, and I am delighted to be here. The most galvanizing feature of Feinberg is the alignment of its mission among our various components; specifically, Northwestern Medicine’s intent to become a “great academic medical center;” Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s goal to become a Top 10 hospital by 2020; and our own desire to drive our Division of Cardiology to Top Five within the next five years. I am fully aligned with the focus of these missions and committed to making them happen. I am confident that we are right at the cusp. With diligent effort, each of our aligned goals will be achieved.
What is your vision for cardiology at the medical school?
The Division of Cardiology has a rich legacy of scholarly work. Under the direction of Robert Bonow, MD, this division became one of the most highly recognized cardiology divisions in the country. My goal is to take us to the next level. We have strong experience as providers of expert healthcare and excellent physician education. I intend to focus our energy on academic productivity. We have a gifted core of basic, translational, and clinical investigators. Aligning researchers with similar interests, while pursuing the most highly regarded extramural funding opportunities, is top of mind. The Feinberg Cardiovascular Research Institute continues to perform cutting edge research and open up new arenas of genomic therapy. We anticipate a robust return on these seminal findings and hope that our success in the translational arena will lend additional success in our clinical investigations. The areas of key focus for our division with continue to include prevention and treatment of cellular regeneration, heart failure, atrial fibrillation, and vascular disease.
What are your research interests?
My research interests have evolved over the years. The overarching focus has been heart failure and its various permutations, including acute decompensated heart failure, heart transplantation, and the prevention of heart failure. In recent years, I have narrowed my focus to two distinct areas: improving quality of care and narrowing the gap in disparate healthcare. I see the larger objectives –improving the quality for all patients with heart disease and contributing to the attainment of health equity – as ‘greater good’ objectives.
What kind of cardiovascular research is happening at Feinberg that excites you?
We have a wealth of ongoing research activities at Feinberg, and all of our efforts have great potential. The recent reports that we can extend the functionality and reduce the episodes of pain for patients with chronic ischemic heart disease are very encouraging. The discomfort felt by patients with chronic chest pain and chronic ischemic heart disease can be disabling. These are real breakthroughs that may fundamentally improve the quality of life for our patients. Similarly, the work we are doing with cardiothoracic surgery to investigate ways of replacing diseased aortic valves without surgery is of great impact. The methods and technology we investigated have led to approval of this game-changing approach to valvular heart disease. These discoveries and investigations define the quality of work we are doing and intend to continue here at Feinberg.
What can Feinberg do better in terms of cardiovascular research?
Research is resource intensive, and the availability of federally-sourced extramural funds is lessening. Our continued growth and momentum depends upon a steady influx of working capital. To the extent that we can work collaboratively to secure new and significant non-federal funds, we should be able to sustain our work efforts and catalyze our work to the next level.
What is your approach to mentoring and career development?
My own view is that mentoring – or coaching, as I view it – is about understanding shared interests, needed resources, and anticipated objectives. For faculty members, there is a matrix we must build. It begins with clinical commitment, academic and professional objectives, and a healthy balance of personal time, but then drills down into a research focus. It’s important that each of our faculty has ownership in some area of heart disease. This means that we must seek novel ideas, set doable objectives, identify reach objectives, align resources, and establish metrics – both short- and long-term. Having clear expectations on both sides constitutes the first step toward success.
Are there research collaborations you've noted since arriving that excite you?
Since arriving at Feinberg, I have enjoyed the ‘tour.’ Many of the members of this Division of Cardiology are involved in novel projects, as are a number of our collaborators in the broader community. Some of the most novel projects include gene therapy for heart failure; the use of atypical vasodilators to treat advanced heart disease; new surgical approaches to circulatory mechanical assist devices; and novel assessments of quality of care. My work addressing health equity will also persist. We will continue to pursue these and other leading edge initiatives as we look for the best approaches to create the most good.