Richmond, Va.
Monday, Sept. 1, 2014

Studying a rare, life-threatening heart disease

Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014

Jordana Kron, M.D., is driven to succeed by her sheer passion for research. Her dedication is reflected in the impact she makes on patients.

The Virginia Commonwealth University Pauley Heart Center and School of Medicine welcomed Kron in 2008 as an assistant professor of internal medicine. Clinically, her specialty is electrophysiology, which is the area of cardiology that focuses on heart rhythms.

Her research interests include cardiac sarcoidosis, management of atrial arrhythmias, cardiac resynchronization therapy for treatment of heart failure in elderly patients and management of arrhythmias in pregnant patients.

Kron received several research awards early in her career, including first place in the Florida Chapter, American College of Cardiology Young Investigator Awards in 2007, and the Women in Cardiology Trainee Award of Excellence from the American Heart Association in 2005.

Her research has been published in Heart Rhythm, Europace, Journal of Interventional Cardiac Electrophysiology, Clinics in Geriatric Medicine Journal and Heart Failure Clinics Journal. She has written editorials for the Journal of the American College of Cardiology and Circulation: Arrhythmias and Electrophysiology and is a reviewer for multiple journals, including Heart Rhythm, PACE and Circulation: Arrhythmia and Electrophysiology.

She has given poster presentations at Heart Rhythm Society, American Heart Association and the Heart Failure Society of America meetings. Kron is a founding member of the Cardiac Sarcoidosis Consortium and a member of the writing committee for the Expert Consensus Statement on the Management of Arrhythmias Associated with Cardiac Sarcoidosis.

A magna cum laude graduate of Princeton University, Kron earned her M.D. from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine where she also completed her internship and residency in internal medicine. She received her cardiology and electrophysiology training at the University of Florida in Gainesville.

As part of a series of profiles on VCU's heart researchers in observance of American Heart Month (February), VCU News asked Kron to talk about her research. In the United States, heart disease in the No. 1 killer of men and women.

What is your specialization and areas of research?

I treat all forms of abnormal cardiac rhythms, including abnormal fast and slow heart rhythms. I use therapies such as medications, devices including pacemakers and defibrillators, and ablation procedures to treat arrhythmias.

My primary research focus is cardiac sarcoidosis. Sarcoidosis is an inflammatory disease marked by the formation of granulomas, which can affect any organ system. The lungs are the most commonly affected, but about 25 percent of sarcoidosis patients have cardiac involvement. Cardiac involvement is very critical to recognize and treat because it can lead to sudden cardiac death due to either slow heart rhythms (high degree of heart block) or fast heart rhythms (ventricular tachycardia or fibrillation).

To better understand the role that defibrillators play in preventing sudden death in patients with cardiac sarcoidosis, I created a database of more than 200 patients from 13 institutions in the United States and around the world. I continue to be involved in multicenter collaborative studies to help understand the role of MRIs in predicting ventricular arrhythmias in cardiac sarcoidosis and the risk of arrhythmias in patients with isolated cardiac sarcoidosis (sarcoidosis involving the heart but no other organ systems).

What is your favorite aspect about working in research at the VCU Pauley Heart Center?

For me, one of the most exciting parts has been meeting electrophysiologists from all over the world who are similarly interested in understanding cardiac sarcoidosis. I have had the opportunity to work with researchers from countries as far as Japan, India and Denmark over the past several years. I find it thrilling that we are forming a global network to advance the diagnosis and treatment of this rare, life-threatening disease.

You have garnered many honors and awards. Where does your drive come from?

I knew from a very young age that I wanted to do something that I loved. My father, who passed away last month, was a judge early in his career and later a practicing attorney. He loved every aspect of his job, from the challenge of figuring out how to best represent a case to having lunch with his colleagues. He never set an alarm clock, he just woke up excited each day to get to work. I credit my dad for inspiring me to find passion in my work. I find the pathophysiology behind cardiac arrhythmias fascinating and the opportunity to help patients feel better a true privilege.

Do you find it rewarding to mentor students? Why?

It is both rewarding and challenging to mentor students, because you want to share with them what you love most about your field, but also convey realistic expectations about the intense training and commitment required. It is often fun to see my day through the eyes of a student, because something that has become very routine to me may seem amazing to the student. It is great to be reminded how lucky I am to do something that is amazing.

How do you hope your research will benefit human health?

While cardiac sarcoidosis is a rare disease, patients are at risk of sudden death. Patients also suffer from weakening symptoms due to arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms) and heart failure. I hope our research will help contribute to better understanding about how to diagnose and treat these patients, leading to improved quality of life and longevity.

I also hope our research leads to an increased awareness among internal medicine physicians, pulmonologists and other specialists about the risk of cardiac involvement and the need to screen patients with sarcoidosis in other organs.

Where do you see your research field headed?

The future of cardiac sarcoidosis research will depend on collaborative, multi-disciplinary research. Through the connections made during the cardiac sarcoidosis defibrillator study, including electrophysiologists at the University of Michigan and the University of Colorado, we founded the Cardiac Sarcoidosis Consortium, an international, multicenter partnership with the unifying purpose to learn more about cardiac sarcoidosis through collaborative research.

To date, we have at least 17 centers committed, and we will be having our third annual meeting at the 2014 Heart Rhythm Conference this spring. A major initiative of the consortium has been to create a web-based, prospective database of patients with cardiac sarcoidosis, which will be used to analyze current diagnosis and treatment strategies and to guide future research endeavors.

 

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Jordana Kron, M.D.