Innovation of the Heart

Networking event celebrates research and relationships

The Innovation of the Heart Research Reception held last November and co-hosted by the American Heart Association and VCU Health brought together Pauley Heart Center researchers and the donors who make their research possible.

The annual networking event celebrated the cardiovascular research and partnerships between VCU Health Pauley Heart Center and the American Heart Association, and the resulting progress in the prevention and treatment of heart disease, stroke and related health issues.

Dr. Greg Hundley addresses attendees at the Innovation of the Heart Research Reception.

Throughout the reception, AHA-funded researchers discussed their work, and its impact on the health of our community. Eleven participants from Pauley presented posters  describing how AHA grants had enabled and advanced their research.

Drs. Lei Xi, Qun Chen, Arun Samidurai and Teja Devarakonda described their studies on novel approaches to attenuate injury following a heart attack, while Drs. Justin Canada, Anindita Das and Adolfo Mauro discussed their studies in the emerging field of cardio-oncology and how to protect the heart against the toxicity of cancer therapies. Dr. Justin Heizer presented his study on management of heart failure patients, and Drs. Aldo Bonaventura, Brian Mitchell and Alessandra Vecchie shared their research in the area of inflammation of the heart.

“The researchers who presented at the Innovation of the Heart reception represent only some of the excellent work taking place at Pauley Heart Center,” said event organizer Dr. Fadi Salloum, the Natalie N. and John R. Congdon Sr. Endowed Chair in the Pauley Heart Center and assistant chair for research in the Department of Internal Medicine.

“It is important that the supporters of the AHA understand how much their support means to the researchers and, more importantly, to the patients who benefit from the science.”

Innovation of the Heart also included a formal research presentation on cardiac sarcoidosis by Dr. Jordana Kron, associate professor in the VCU School of Medicine and cardiologist at VCU Health Pauley Heart Center, and Dr. Jennifer Jordan, assistant professor in the VCU College of Engineering’s Department of Biomedical Engineering and director of the Cardiovascular MRI Core Lab at the Pauley Heart Center. Kron and Jordan are co-principal investigators on a study made possible by the AHA’s 2019 Collaborative Sciences Award, a three-year $750,000 award to investigate a new treatment for cardiac sarcoidosis, an inflammatory condition that can lead to heart failure. The first-of-its-kind study evaluates the efficacy and safety of using interleukin-1 blockade to treat patients who present with cardiac sarcoidosis. The AHA award builds on a 15-month, $50,000 Pauley Pilot Research Grant that Kron received last spring. (Read more about Kron’s research on Page 12.)

“I was very excited to share the research I am involved in,” Kron said of her event participation. “It is important that the supporters of the AHA understand how much their support means to the researchers and, more importantly, to the patients who benefit from the science.”

Innovation of the Heart followed the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association Scientific Sessions, an annual conference devoted to the future of cardiovascular medicine and science and attracting researchers from around the globe. Every year Pauley Heart Center sends a group of professionals to this national event to share their research and engage with scientists and medical professionals.

In 2019, 25 researchers representing Pauley — the most in the center’s history — presented their work at the prestigious meeting held in Philadelphia. Research topics included cardio-oncology and heart attack-related heart failure.

For more information about this event, email Whitney Jones, AHA, at

AHA and VCU: By the numbers*

  • 1971: Year the first American Heart Association grant was awarded to a researcher at the Medical College of Virginia, to study re-innervation of the cardiac transplant
  • 2021: Year the AHA and VCU will celebrate 50 years of partnership
  • $22,005,628: Total AHA funding to VCU and MCV for 271 research projects since 1971

*As of January 2020