Medicine is based, in no small measure, on the transfer and growth of knowledge. It is no secret that doctors are required to undertake many years of educational training before endeavoring to apply that knowledge. They must further spend extra years of learning how to apply that knowledge in a monitored educational setting – the residency/fellowship training programs. Once in the practice of that knowledge, both the exigencies of the profession and the requirements of the law demand that physicians update their knowledge in an ongoing fashion. Research drives the educational engine by increasing our understanding of basic science and its application to clinical reality.

Here at the Florida Heart Research Institute we are deeply committed to the role of the researcher as educator. Why? Would it not be sufficient to gather knowledge and let others do with it what they will? Here is the problem. Cardiovascular disease is the leading killer of men and women in this country, to the tune of nearly one million American lives lost each and every year. Surprisingly, our research has taught us that atherosclerotic vascular disease, the most common form of this lethal disease – the type that causes heart attacks and many strokes is, to a large degree, preventable. Yes, FHRI is studying the nature cardiovascular risk in the Miami Hispanic population to better understand how this community differs in risk from the now-famous population of Framingham Massachusetts. Yes, FHRI is exploring new technologies to identify disease in the coronary arteries at an early, preclinical, and potentially reversible stage. Yes, FHRI is studying the biochemical mediators of obesity and how they can be modified by diet. But this is not sufficient. Based on the knowledge which is already readily known, FHRI performs cardiovascular risk screening on literally thousands of members of our community each year. What better way to convey the importance of risk factor modification and the potential for prevention than to teach people face to face their risk factors for developing heart disease, their opportunities for improvement and prevention, and their ability to take control of their own personal health destiny.

Education of the population is critical, but not sufficient. Several years ago the Institute of Medicine shocked the world with their estimate that somewhere between 50-100,000 people died each year in America due to medical error. The problem is much more complex than it seems and well beyond the scope of this brief article. However, suffice it to say that ongoing physician education is critical to reversing this trend. Even though only a small portion of the actual errors are committed by physicians themselves, it will be their ability to analyze the systems and processes of care and to modify them that will drive the solution to the problem. It is for this reason that FHRI takes an active role in physician education, both directly and indirectly. Directly we present, in collaboration with the Florida Chapter of the American College of Surgeons, the annual Callen lecture on a topic of broad and current interest in the field of heart disease. Similarly, we award the prestigious Stop Heart Disease Researcher of the Year Award, to encourage superb scientific investigation and ongoing research in the area of heart disease. However, this is not enough. FHRI works with physicians and databases to carefully evaluate surgical outcomes and better define those areas of success as well as those opportunities for improvement.

At FHRI, we believe that it is important to seek facts and to organize them into coherent information. However, it is not until that information is transmitted and disseminated that it achieves the status of knowledge that can be used to help cure heart disease.