MUSC Health cardiologist honored with VA's highest award for research

Tonya Lobbestael
August 27, 2019
Dr. Michael Zile, left, is being recognized for his outstanding contributions to biomedical research in heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF). Photo by James Arrowood

Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center Chief of Cardiology Michael Zile has received the VA’s highest honor for research, the William S. Middleton Award. Zile is also a cardiologist at MUSC Health and the Charles Ezra Daniel Endowed Chair for Cardiology at the Medical University of South Carolina.

The Middleton award honors his outstanding contributions to biomedical research in heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF). That’s heart failure where the amount of blood ejected from the heart with each beat is normal. It’s considered the largest unmet need in modern cardiology.

Almost half of patients diagnosed with heart failure have HFpEF. They’re at greater risk for heart arrhythmia or atrial fibrillation, frequent hospitalizations for heart failure and death due to cardiovascular issues.

An internationally recognized expert in HFpEF, Zile has formulated criteria that have been established and adopted as guidelines for managing heart failure. His work has also developed predictive assessment of morbidity and mortality in these patients and advanced novel mechanisms of disease that are now being targeted for clinical drug development. Zile’s studies have also helped identify new therapeutic targets for clinical trials and are leading to new therapies for HFpEF.

Zile said his interest in HFpEF research really started at the bedside. “If you sit in a room and you listen to a patient, and you find out their life is not what they want it to be like and they’re suffering … if you listen closely and you’re a good scientist everyone has something important to tell you, something to contribute and something that can move the science forward."

Over the past 30 years, Zile has taken that input into the lab. Working with numerous colleagues along the way, he has helped identify new areas of investigation aimed at controlling left ventricular structural remodeling and left ventricular diastolic dysfunction in patients with HFpEF.

Zile has also been involved in clinical trials sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Defense and industry to test the effectiveness of medications and new treatments for this condition. His work is seen as important because there are no approved therapies to treat HFpEF.

“The success I’ve had is due in large part to the VA — its partnership, collegiality and accomplishments of everyone and this VA and all who work at VAMCs across the country,” Zile said.

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