South Florida Hospital News
Saturday September 19, 2020
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April 2006 - Volume 2 - Issue 10
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The Power of Education

There are languages in which the words "to learn" and "to teach" share the same etymologic origin. The reasons are obvious: anyone who teaches knows that the teacher must learn the topic extraordinarily well to teach it; the "learner" (or researcher) is poignantly aware that the value of his/her findings will rest upon the ability to convey them effectively to others. It is for this very reason that the Florida Heart Research Institute has the combined mission to stop heart disease through research, education and prevention.

In a rapidly evolving environment where medical knowledge is growing exponentially—a pace which is ever accelerating as the ability to process increasingly voluminous amounts of information continues to expand—it is critical for any research institute to be flexible and creative. To that end, the Florida Heart Research Institute focuses on pilot projects in novel areas of investigation—areas which do not currently have a sponsor or are not yet sufficiently developed to achieve major support. It is for this reason that we choose collaborative projects in such areas as the development of novel natriuretic peptides (heart hormones) for the diagnosis and treatment of congestive heart failure (the most rapidly growing manifestation of cardiovascular disease), the study of genetic origins for the risk of sudden cardiac death (which claims over 250,000 lives each year in the United States alone), and the use of bone marrow stem cells to promote myocardial regeneration (new heart formation) for patients who have suffered heart attack or other forms of heart injury.

Although findings from these studies will certainly help fill the medical journals of the future, many of the fruits of these labors will not be realized for many years. However, reporting of the advanced and esoteric, although appropriate and critical, cannot be considered sufficient fulfillment of our mission to educate. In addition to our programs of professional education, the FHRI is actively involved in public education. Perhaps the most dramatic outreach effort in this regard is our cardiovascular risk assessment screening program. Conducted both at the Institute, as well as at multiple sites throughout the community (in collaboration with local business, churches and/or other community organizations) and the state, this educational program is one of personal empowerment. Our scientific research has proven that much of the devastation wrought by coronary heart disease is preventable. Despite a wealth of therapeutic options, only one quarter of American hypertensives are adequately treated. One quarter of the adult population continues to smoke. There is an evolving pandemic of obesity which is secondarily increasing the incidence of diabetes—the tip of this iceberg is only beginning to be appreciated. A simple risk assessment helps to empower people: knowing what risks they do and do not have provides critical information which can help them to focus on those areas most productive for them to reduce their risk—a clear benefit for both the individual, and for the society to reduce the devastating burden of this lethal disease.

FHRI’s educational programs are equally flexible and creative. Whether provided for free to the underserved and uninsured within the community, or offered for a nominal fee to the small and mid-sized employer, our programs serve one unified purpose – to arm individuals with the knowledge about their individual risks for heart disease, stroke, diabetes and obesity, and empower them with the tools necessary to reverse or reduce their risks. Heart disease should never be a death sentence. While today’s research is tomorrow’s cure, it’s also true that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! It is our mission as "learners" (researchers) that allows us to be effective "teachers" (educators) – they both go hand in hand. It’s an honor to serve our local community and those throughout the state and nation so that we can all live happier, healthier more productive lives.

Dr. Paul Kurlansky, board certified cardiothoracic surgeon, Director of Research at the Florida Heart Research Institute, can be reached at (305) 674-3154 or DoctorWu18@aol.com.
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