Two AHA Councils Become One
Ringing Out the Old and Bringing in the New
- American Heart Association
- translational biology
- functional genomics
- Council on Basic Cardiovascular Sciences
At the dawning of the new millennium, major changes in cardiovascular science lie on the horizon, including increased pay lines and a proposal to double the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget in 5 years; major victories in the war against cigarette smoking by the American Heart Association (AHA) and an emphasis on outcomes research; the winding down of the Human Genome project; a reduction in the number of young people entering academic cardiovascular medicine; and the transition to a new editor at Circulation Research. Concurrent with all of these events and, perhaps, to better participate in these new directions, the Councils on Circulation and Basic Science, two of the thirteen councils of the AHA, have recently merged. The merger comes after a great deal of agonizing over the past several years, in fact, for more than 35 years, concerning the now artificial distinction between disciplines in basic cardiovascular sciences and the ensuing loss of individual identity due to the merging of so many scientific disciplines. Out of this reflection comes what we believe to be the best of the “old councils” and new energy and direction from their union.
Council (Section) on Circulation: The Council on Circulation1 2 was the first “section” of the AHA and was formed as the Section on Peripheral Circulation in 1935. Its function was to encourage investigation into the function of the circulation. At its first annual meeting in 1936, nine papers were presented on topics such as assessment of peripheral resistance, surgical treatment of hypertension, contrast arteriography, and intermittent claudication in man. The first chairman was George Brown, who died that year, and in his memory, the first George Brown Lecture was given by Walter Cannon in 1937. At that time, the journal for the Council was the American Heart Journal. After World War II, then as now, there was some soul-searching as to the purpose of the Section. It was stated by Irvine H. Page that up until that time “the American Heart Association had not been interested in problems further from the heart than the aorta,” and that if a study did not “contain electrocardiography it was not suitable for publication in the American Heart Journal.” Out of discussions like these came the conclusions that the Council should maintain an interest in the circulation in its broadest sense and that the major functions were both research and education into the function of the circulation. In the 1960s, a brief merger with the Council on Renal Disease was undertaken. Most interestingly, a merger of the Council on Basic Science and Circulation was proposed in 1964 and was voted on by the membership. The merger, however, did not go forward because there were still “marked differences in the fields of study.” To recognize the important contribution of Melvin Marcus to both clinical and basic investigations into the regulation of the circulation, the Council on Circulation named its Young Investigator Award in his honor in 1989. The Cardiovascular Research Prize is also given by the Council on Circulation to support the development of an intermediate-level scientist.
Council (Section) on Basic Science: The Section on Basic Science1 2 was formed in 1953 (also the first year for Circulation Research) to keep pace with the tremendous expansion in basic research of the heart and circulation. The stated purpose of the Section was “… to facilitate and encourage investigation of fundamental problems relative to the circulation.” At the first meeting of the Section at the AHA annual meeting in 1954, a direction of “encouraging cooperation and better understanding between those engaged in laboratory research and the clinical investigator working with patients in hospitals” was espoused. The section became a Council along with the others in 1957. In 1969, the Louis N. Katz award was established to recognize outstanding contributions of young investigators in the field, and recently, the title of the Award was changed to the Louis N. and Arnold M. Katz Award in recognition of the important contributions of both father and son. The Katz Award has come to emphasize the molecular mechanisms underlying the physiology and pathophysiology of the cardiovascular system. In 1997, the Thomas W. Smith Lectureship was developed in recognition of outstanding contributions of senior scientists along with the Edgar Haber Award as a means of recognizing scientific leadership at an earlier stage of career development.
The Council on Basic Cardiovascular Sciences: Over the past several years, the two councils have collaborated in a number of ways: (1) holding a joint meeting every 18 months emphasizing alternately the heart and circulation; (2) jointly selecting the Cardiovascular Research Prize to a developing junior scientist; and (3) cosponsoring programs at the November meeting of the AHA, emphasizing the increasingly overlapping scientific interests of the councils. Apparently, the hesitancy to unite the two councils for more than three decades has been resolved with the recognition that we have more in common than apart. As of July 1, 1999, the two councils have merged to form the Council on Basic Cardiovascular Sciences (CBCS). As the merger progresses, the two Executive Committees will initially be integrated, although representation on AHA Committees such as the Program Committee and Committee on Scientific Councils will continue as before. The joining of the Councils will increase our membership to about 5000 members, making us the second largest council after Clinical Cardiology. The major named awards will continue as before. Most importantly, the future scientific direction of the Council on Basic Cardiovascular Sciences will incorporate the interests of both councils. This will be most immediately evident in the Program for the Scientific Sessions this November, which will feature a plenary session and numerous abstract presentations reflecting the interests of the new council. The current catchphrases in cardiovascular science seem to be “translational biology, integrative physiology, proteomics, or functional genomics”—all of which relate to the recognition that our recent accomplishments and almost phenomenal progress in understanding the molecular basis of physiology and disease must ultimately be translated to the bedside in order to improve cardiovascular health and achieve our mission of “a reduction in death and disability.” The importance of this was described by Claude Lenfant3 in a 1995 Editorial entitled “Integrative Physiology: Remember the Big Picture” and was reinforced by the direction of the immediate past editor of Circulation Research4 5 (which will be the unofficial journal for the new council; unofficial because we wish to be inclusive of all areas of basic inquiry, regardless of journal preference). This concept has both philosophical and practical implications and will be the new direction championed by CBCS. To that end, as officers of CBCS, we would like to welcome the participation of all members of the cardiovascular research community to join our new Council, to reemphasize our commitment to translate basic research findings into treatments, and to actively support programs and funding initiatives at both the AHA and the NIH to support the development of functional genomics. We especially encourage the participation of young scientist-clinicians who are interested in using their new education in basic mechanisms to understand and treat cardiovascular disease and stroke, and we would like to serve as a resource for training and for answering questions. As stated as the “purpose” of the Section on Basic Science in December 1953, our rediscovered goal will be “to facilitate and encourage investigation of fundamental problems relative to the circulation (and heart), and to disseminate information to the profession of scientific advances relevant to the progress of medicine and surgery.”
To learn more about the Council on Basic Cardiovascular Sciences or to become a member, visit www.amhrt.org/catalog/Scientificcatpage110.html.
- © 1999 American Heart Association, Inc.
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