The University of Washington Department of Global Health (DGH) and Division of Cardiology in the Department of Medicine announced the formation of a new joint Global Cardiovascular Health Program (GCHP) dedicated to global cardiovascular disease prevention and care.
Dr. Chris Longenecker will serve as the inaugural program director, beginning November 1, 2021. He will hold faculty appointments in both global health and cardiology.
Dr. Longenecker is a practicing non-invasive cardiologist and associate professor of medicine at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio. His research interests include the cardiovascular complications of HIV infection, with a specific focus on rheumatic heart disease and the effect of chronic inflammation on vascular and structural heart disease in treated HIV infection. He leads two studies funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute – one testing a novel nurse-led implementation strategy to improve blood pressure and cholesterol care for people living with HIV in the United States; the other a clinical trial comparing two implementation strategies of integrating hypertension care into HIV clinics in Uganda.
“Chris Longenecker brings the combination of skills, experience, and energy that we need to build UW’s Global Cardiovascular Health Program into one of the world’s premier academic programs. He also has a passion for training and mentoring, as well as for translational research, and real fire in his belly for working with colleagues to develop this program,” said DGH chair Judy Wasserheit.
The establishment of the Global Cardiovascular Health Program (GCHP) will allow the University of Washington to coordinate and build upon ongoing work addressing cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death and disability globally. Examples of this work by global health and medicine faculty include a grant from the National Institutes of Health Fogarty International Center to research professor Dr. Annette Fitzpatrick and colleagues to build capacity to address the burden of cardiometabolic risk factors and diseases in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). In addition, associate professor of medicine Nona Sotoodehnia is leading efforts in cardiovascular treatments in Nepal, clinical assistant professor of global health Tecla Temu is researching cardiovascular disease risk reduction interventions for HIV infected individuals in Kenya, and acting assistant professor of global health Dr. Yangfang Su has a number of grants supporting work related to rheumatic heart disease, also in LMIC settings.
Despite these promising efforts, Robb MacLellan, head of the UW Division of Cardiology, says there’s still much work to be done to tackle this major global health challenge.
“The global burden of cardiovascular disease is only beginning to be realized,” said MacLellan. “We are very excited in cardiology to be partnering with the Department of Global Health to begin to develop a cardiovascular global health program capable of addressing this emerging problem.”
With the addition of Dr. Longenecker to lead this effort, UW will leverage and expand existing relationships and projects to develop interdisciplinary and intersectoral interventions aimed at improving global cardiovascular health, particularly in marginalized populations.
“This will be an incredible opportunity for cross-pollination between cardiology, public health, nursing, implementation science, economics, anthropology and others,” said Dr. Longenecker, who has worked extensively with colleagues around the world on a range of cardiovascular disease challenges.
Under Dr. Longenecker’s leadership, the GCHP will maintain an ambitious translational research and educational agenda in order to improve global cardiovascular health and attract trainees and faculty from across the university and partner institutions. Launching pilot grant opportunities, establishing intentional forums for interdisciplinary dissemination of research findings and ideas, and creating opportunities for training the next generation of global cardiovascular health experts are just a few things he hopes to accomplish in the first five years of the program.
“My vision for the GCHP is to drive innovation that promotes cardiovascular health and reduces cardiovascular disease in diverse settings around the world,” said Dr. Longenecker. “To do this, we must study conditions across the entire spectrum of translational science with an unwavering commitment to equity and capacity building in our work.”
Dr. Longenecker earned his M.D. from the Ohio State University College of Medicine and completed his post-graduate training at University of California, San Francisco and University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center. He is a member of the European Society of Cardiology and American College of Cardiology, and a fellow of the American Heart Association. He is the recipient of the 2020 Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award and was named one of 2017’s Next Gen Innovators in Cardiology by the Cardiology Today Editorial Board.
By Amy Frances Goldstein