An international search for two senior scientists with outstanding reputations in the areas of thrombosis and atherosclerosis research, and cardiology research, has found the very best candidates at home at McMaster University's Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine.
The new Jack Hirsh/PHRI Chair in Thrombosis and Atherosclerosis Research will be held by John Eikelboom, an associate professor of hematology and thromboembolism of McMaster's Department of Medicine, a world-class researcher and a hematologist for Hamilton Health Sciences, who has co-authored more than 500 articles in peer-reviewed journals.
Jeff Healey, associate professor of cardiology, director of arrhythmia services, and trailblazer in atrial fibrillation (AF) research, has been appointed to the new PHRI Cardiology Chair.
These faculty positions, which were each established with $1 million in endowment from the Population Health Research Institute (PHRI) and $40,000 in annual matching funds from the Department of Medicine, will be part of PHRI's highly successful research community—the highest ranked in Canada—of approximately 45 active researchers and about 300 research staff.
"McMaster has had considerable strength in thrombosis and atherosclerosis research and cardiology research for the past 40 years, and these scientists work will continue this leadership," said Paul O'Byrne, dean and vice-president of the Faculty of Health Sciences."Dr. Healey and Dr. Eikelboom are well deserving of these important positions."
Salim Yusuf, professor of medicine and executive director of the PHRI agreed.
"The creation of these chairs is a key strategy to attract and retain the world class researchers at PHRI, McMaster and Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) and give them the freedom to pursue excellent science," he said.
Eikelboom received his training in internal medicine and hematology in Perth, Australia and additional training in epidemiology and thrombosis medicine at McMaster. He joined McMaster as an associate professor in 2005. He holds a career award from the Heart and Stroke Foundation and is a member of the editorial board for the journal Thrombosis and Haemostasis.
His current research centers around the effectiveness and safety of antithrombotic therapies to avoid blood clots that can lead to heart attack or stroke, improving outcomes after blood transfusion, avoiding bleeding with antithrombotics while maintaining their benefits , and understanding why some people respond better than others to antiplatelet drugs.
"One of the most urgent research priorities is the issue of bleeding, which is the most common adverse event in patients treated with antithrombotic drugs," said Eikelboom. "Up until now, bleeding has been regarded as an inevitable and minor complication, but this is clearly incorrect. Very little attention has been paid to trying to prevent bleeding or thromboembolic complications after bleeding."
With the new Chair, he aims to better understand why these events occur, and why bleeding is often associated with an increase in thromboembolic risks. "My research will evaluate new approaches to improve prevention and management of these events, including refining existing treatments."
The chair held by Eikelboom is named for Jack Hirsh, a pioneer in global thrombosis research. "Hirsh developed the field from its infancy and has mentored scores of investigators, many of whom are now internationally renowned," said Yusuf. "We are grateful for his selfless contributions."
Healey completed his clinical training in cardiology and electrophysiology at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute, followed by a Master's degree in health research methodology at McMaster. The associate professor became a faculty member in 2005.
He is the principal investigator of the ARTESiA trial and chair of the Canadian Stroke Prevention Intervention Network (CSPIN), and has published more than 185 manuscripts. Among those, he is widely recognized as the lead author of the ASSERT trial, which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine and demonstrated increased stroke risk associated with sub-clinical AF detected by pacemakers, and the RE-LY AF Cohort study, published in the Lancet, which examined risk factors and outcomes of patients with atrial fibrillation in 47 countries.
"Jeff Healey, along with Stuart Connolly has made major contributions to our understanding of the early development of AF even before they become clinically apparent," said Yusuf.
Healey said his three pillars of focus as the newly endowed chair holder will include screening for AF, treatment and management of sub-clinical AF, and programs that address risk factors for AF, such as high blood pressure, obesity and sleep apnea. "If we can treat the underlying conditions that lead to arrhythmia in the first place, we may be able to improve patient outcomes even more than our current approaches to treatment," he said.
Healey also hopes to use his position to train and mentor the next generation of star researchers, as well as build bridges between multiple related disciplines such as cardiology and neurology.
"We want to break down some barriers, think outside of our silos and work collaboratively with the wide range of individuals in our network – from neurologists to cardiac surgeons to cardiologists to thrombosis specialists – in order to more effectively find better solutions ," he said. "Being Chair allows me to reflect and strategize how to do that."