Letter from the director

Dr. Greg Hundley Headshot

Dr. Greg Hundley

Treating all patients with dignity and respect is an unwavering commitment of our health system. Yet, there have been times throughout our history when we have fallen short of this commitment and damaged the trust communities place in us.

We recently ratified a diversity, equity and inclusion statement that will guide the future of our institution. As part of it, we vowed to fearlessly accept criticism and continuously learn from our mistakes with transparency and humility. Our history can teach us valuable lessons to make VCU Health and the communities we serve better places.

As this issue of The Beat was going to press, a new book titled, “The Organ Thieves: The Shocking Story of the First Heart Transplant in the Segregated South,” was published that explores our institution’s first heart transplant along with issues of racism and health care in the South. The book gives us a new opportunity to reflect and learn from the circumstances of the first heart transplant at VCU Medical Center (formerly known as MCV).

Every day we strive to make the communities we serve healthier, and our expert clinicians and researchers seek solutions to our most pressing health problems. Within these pages we share updates on the latest clinical trials being conducted at VCU Medical Center in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Antonio Abbate and his team have been working tirelessly — literally around the clock — to contribute meaningful data in the international quest for safe and effective drug therapies against the virus. Preliminary data from a clinical trial testing the drug canakinumab in treating COVID-19 patients should be available this fall.

We’re also on the forefront of research into atrial fibrillation, a common abnormal heart rhythm. Untreated, AFib can increase the risk of stroke. In our cover story, you’ll read about a clinical trial spearheaded by Dr. Kenneth Ellenbogen to determine if the WATCHMAN FLX is as effective as anticoagulants in preventing strokes in patients with AFib. The parachute-like device has already made a significant positive difference in the life of an active 80-year-old patient you’ll meet here.

You’ll also meet our newest providers, whose expertise allows us to further expand our clinical services. We’re excited to introduce Pauley’s director of complex coronary interventions, Dr. Lorenzo Azzalini; cardio-oncology specialist Dr. Wendy Bottinor; and pediatric cardiologist Dr. Frank Raucci. Welcome! You might hear from them, or our other expert faculty, in our expanded educational offerings that are free and online for our colleagues around the globe.

As we wind down a year of unique challenges, we see opportunities to lead and grow. Please join me in celebrating the important work we’re doing, and supporting the important work yet to come.

Sincerely yours,
Dr. Greg Hundley