South Florida Hospital News
Wednesday October 18, 2017
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February 2013 - Volume 9 - Issue 8

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Life Altering Career Change Brought Opportunity to Change Next Generation

Dr. Paul Kurlansky, Director of Research at the Florida Heart Research Institute, originally chose the dynamic field of cardiac surgery as his specialty because he enjoyed helping people in a direct, immediate way. But after practicing for nearly a decade as a cardiovascular and thoracic surgeon, a medical disability virtually remade his life.
 
Trained at Harvard, Tufts and Columbia University, Dr. Kurlansky had always recognized the importance of research. He had worked on research studies between undergraduate and medical school, and for six months between his general and cardiac surgical training.
 
“While research was a natural evolution for me, it was a big change,” he said. “The results of what you do immediately is felt in surgery. However, while the impact of research may not change what happens tomorrow, it will change the next generation.”
 
In 1999, Dr. Kurlansky was offered the position of Director of Research at the Florida Heart Research Institute, which has been an international leader in cardiovascular research and education since 1944, when it was previously known as the Miami Heart Institute.
 
Today, the Institute is an independent, not-for-profit 501 (c) (3) organization with the mission to stop heart disease through research, education and prevention. Its novel approach to collaborative research on the national level serves as a critical impetus to the introduction and development of innovative research efforts. The Institute is also recognized as a leading cardiovascular resource for the local community, offering community services including onsite and offsite screening programs for the underserved and uninsured.
 
“Our goal is to identify high impact projects which are meaningful and scientifically valid, that need help to get to the next level,” he said. “We are like venture capitalists. We try to make something happen that wouldn’t normally happen without that push.”
 
Under Dr. Kurlansky’s leadership, the Research Institute created a first of its kind clinical cardiac genetics lab. It also conducted a major initiative to study and promote the heart health of Miami-Dade County’s Hispanic population.
 
In addition to performing onsite clinical trial studies and public health screenings, the Institute has collaborated with other research partners who are internationally recognized experts such as the Mayo Clinic, Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, and locally, the University of Miami and Mt Sinai Medical Center. Being an independent, nonprofit organization allows the Institute to be unbiased and flexible, and to pursue projects swiftly.
 
 “Many things are wide open in cardiology,” said Dr. Kurlansky. “To me, the single most intriguing advance in medicine is how we can tap into or unleash the body’s own healing power. This potential for healing is incredibly powerful, poorly understood and largely untapped. This takes us into regenerative medicine and stem cell therapy.”
 
He is proud of the work the Institute has done with stem cells in collaboration with several leading institutions, to learn why stem cell therapy works on mice, but not people. “We are trying to work on solutions to these questions, which will have a major impact,” he said.
 
He also noted that the Institute’s work on the use of bilateral internal mammary arteries in surgery as a technique that can save lives has major implications. Findings have been recognized by a number of associations, including the American Association of Thoracic Surgery and the Society of Thoracic Surgeons.
 
 “Cardiovascular disease is still the most common killer of men and women in this country,” he said. “Yet, for all the elegance of our devices and research, this disease is largely preventable. People can empower themselves to make a difference with their lives and their own health.”
 
A resident of Miami for 25 years, Dr. Kurlansky is active in his synagogue and the local Jewish community in Miami Beach. Nationally, he is involved with the Society of Thoracic Surgeons’ quality management task force, and works closely with the Division of Cardiac Surgery of Columbia University.
Born in Newington, CT, he enjoys the climate and spirit of Miami. “I travel a lot, and when I get off the plane, I love the warm balmy air that lets me know I am home.”
 
As for his life altering career change, Dr. Kurlansky says he is very grateful to the Florida Heart Research Institute for giving him the opportunity to develop, work on and perform science at a very high level, free of commercial and institutional bias. “It has been a privilege to be part of this organization,” he said.   
For additional information about the Florida Heart Research Institute, visit www.floridaheartresearch.org.
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