Can you mend a broken heart? University of Iowa physicians like Frances Johnson hope to do just that by combining devotion to patient care with a passion for scientific discovery.
Johnson, a clinical associate professor of cardiology in the UI Carver College of Medicine, directs the Cardiomyopathy Treatment Program at UI Hospitals and Clinics, caring for patients whose hearts pump less blood than normal. Since joining the Iowa faculty last year, she’s focused on translating laboratory discoveries into effective treatments.
Much of her work focuses on heart failure, which affects more than five million Americans. Good medical care can manage the condition, but some patients eventually require mechanical blood pumps or heart transplants. (Johnson and other heart failure specialists will present a special community program on the disease Feb. 24.)
To speed the search for treatment options, Johnson is establishing a program that will store tissue samples and clinical information donated by heart failure patients. Researchers can use the “biobank” to study genetic factors in heart disease or to chart how cardiovascular problems progress.
Iowa’s exceptional partnerships between research scientists and practicing physicians make it fertile ground for discovery. Johnson wants to attract new faculty members with expertise in both the lab and the clinic—individuals who’ll pioneer new medications and surgeries, methods to regrow cardiac tissue, and devices that augment damaged hearts.
Driving their work is a shared dedication to helping people who are running out of choices. To Johnson and other physician-scientists—as well as their patients—innovation is another word for hope.