In this special Lifetime Achievement Award Spotlight, we asked this year’s recipient Douglas L. Mann, MD, FHFSA to share career highlights, opinions on the future of heart failure care, and his professional advice on entering a career in the field of heart failure.
Please share with us some “highlights” from your distinguished academic career that have significantly impacted the field of heart failure.
The research that I was engaged with on the effects of sustained adrenergic signaling on cardiac myocyte biology coincided with the advent of the use of beta-blockers in patients with heart failure. These basic research studies provided an important mechanistic link for understanding how this class of drugs worked, as well as led to subsequent studies on the role of inflammation in heart failure, which has been the major focus of my laboratory for the past 20 years. Although the translational road to developing successful anti-inflammatory strategies in heart failure has had a few “bumps,” the recent success with antagonizing IL-1β in heart failure has highlighted the importance of innate immunity in clinical heart failure.
In your opinion, what are important next steps in research to improve heart failure care?
We need better animal models, particularly in HFpEF, that will allow us to test new therapeutics that better translate to studies in patients with heart failure. We also need better phase II clinical trial designs that allow for improved success in phase III drug and device trials of new heart failure therapies.
Over the years, you have served in many key and critical roles within the Heart Failure Society of America. What do you consider to be some of the pivotal activities that you have led within our Society?
I have enjoyed all of my roles in HFSA, from being a member of the executive committee, and then Treasurer, Vice President and ultimately President of HFSA. However, becoming the President of the Society was the highlight of my time with HFSA. During my tenure as President, HFSA was successful in convincing the ABIM that heart failure should be a defined as its own specialty. This was the result of the coordinated efforts of a lot of passionate and dedicated HFSA members that I was honored to work with. In addition, while I was the immediate past-president and still an active member of the executive council, HFSA undertook a difficult but important reorganization that allowed the society to grow beyond its original mandates.
What do you think are new opportunities to grow the Heart Failure Society of America that will enhance its role as a leader amongst professional societies engaged in heart failure education, research, advocacy, etc.?
The Fellowship Designation Program (FHFSA) has made a sustained commitment to engaging a broader group of professionals interested in taking care of patients with heart failure. HFSA has also made a strong effort to support the next generation of heart failure specialists. In my view, these two themes are central to the educational, research and advocacy missions of HFSA, as well as the continued success of the society. HFSA will also need to continue to expand collaborations with other professional societies, without losing its identity when partnering with larger organizations.
What advice do you have for early career professionals who are entering the field?
Become an active member of HFSA, learn to network with your colleagues, don’t be dissuaded or disappointed by your failures (they are inevitable but will make you stronger), make learning a lifelong goal, remember that you are the future of heart failure and that you play a vital role in your organization and your community, and above all else – don’t forget have fun.
About the HFSA Lifetime Achievement Award
The HFSA Lifetime Achievement Award is presented by the Executive Council of the HFSA. The purpose of this award is to recognize a lifetime body of work by an individual who has made a significant and sustained contributions to the field of heart failure. The 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award has been made possible with the generous support of Cytokinetics.