History of Cardiology

Clinicians within the Cardiology Division at Mass General are making revolutionary contributions to the field, and fellows are at the center of these advances.

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Paul Dudley White, the Father of Cardiology in the United States

In 1913 Paul Dudley White, fresh from an internship in pediatrics and a year of residency in internal medicine, was sent to England to work with Thomas Lewis. Lewis was widely recognized as a leading investigator in the field of cardiac physiology. His pioneer experiments with the electrocardiograph, invented 10 years earlier by Einthoven, explored its potential as a diagnostic tool. During his tenure as chief of the Cardiac Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital, the first unit of its kind in the United States, Dr. White published over 400 papers that covered the entire range of cardiology. He helped establish the American Heart Association in 1924 and served as executive director of the National Advisory Heart Council to oversee creation of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Dr. White was succeeded as chief of cardiology by Dr. Edward F. Bland. Dr. Bland, a senior member of the unit, led a group of staff members who were known for their clinical expertise. They introduced the new diagnostic modality, cardiac catheterization, in 1949, and together with cardiac surgeon J. Gordon Scannell, placed the institution at the forefront of treating valvular and congenital heart disease.

A Leader in Fundamental Investigation and Teaching

In 1964 Dr. Bland was succeeded as chief by Dr. Edgar Haber, who established Massachusetts General Hospital as the leader in fundamental investigation. His research in protein chemistry at the NIH was an essential component of the work for which Christian Anfinsen, Bland’s mentor, was awarded the Nobel Prize. Dr. Haber studied immunoglobulins and recognized the early the power of monoclonal reagents, which he also applied to the clinical arena. He pioneered the use of anti-Digoxin antibodies as diagnostic and therapeutic tools, and antibodies to myofibrillar components for nuclear scans.

In 1991 Dr. Valentin D. Fuster was appointed the fourth chief of cardiology. He was accomplished in both clinical and research cardiology and introduced an academic practice plan to Mass General. Dr. Fuster opened the cardiac access unit, which strengthened patient care by emphasizing bedside teaching for fellows.

Developing Standards of Care

Dr. Arthur E. Weyman became the fifth chief of cardiology in 1994, and previously served for fourteen years as the director of the echocardiography laboratory at Mass General. Dr. Weyman’s work has helped create the current acceptance of echocardiography as the preferred technique for noninvasive diagnosis of heart disease, and his textbook, Principles and Practice of Echocardiography, is a standard in the field.

Discovering What’s Next

Dr. Mark C. Fishman became the sixth chief of cardiology in 1998. Dr. Fishman had trained in medicine and cardiology at Mass General, and in genetics and developmental biology at the NIH and Harvard Genetics Department. In 1990 Dr. Fishman founded and became the first director of the Mass General Cardiovascular Research Center, which brought laboratory scientists from around the world to Mass General. He also introduced the genetic organism, the zebrafish, to study the heart and vessel development. The Cardiovascular Research Center is now a prominent fundamental science institute and an integral part of research within Mass General’s Cardiology Division.

Dr. G. William Dec assumed the role of chief of cardiology in 2003. He is a nationally recognized expert in cardiomyopathies and previously directed the Heart Failure and Transplantation Program at the Mass General Corrigan Minehan Heart Center. He has helped focus clinical and research efforts on mechanical circulatory support, gene therapy and cellular transplantation for the failing heart. Under his leadership, clinical and investigative programs continue to grow.

Clinicians within the Cardiology Division at Mass General are making revolutionary contributions to the field, and fellows are at the center of these advances. Our physicians strive to help fellows enjoy the program and participate in the distinguished learning that that characterizes cardiology at Mass General.

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