Feb. 1 marks the start of American Heart Month and the beginning of a four-month celebration commemorating the first human-to-human heart transplant in Virginia.

VCU Health Pauley Heart Center celebrates 50th anniversary of Virginia’s first heart transplant

Pioneers in the field of heart transplantation, VCU Health launches anniversary event series for a heart-healthier Virginia

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We're committed to treating all patients with dignity and respect, but there have been times throughout our history when we have fallen short of this goal. Our history can teach us valuable lessons, including the circumstances of the first heart transplant at MCV in 1968. To learn more about our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, please visit: https://www.vcuhealth.org/news/learning-from-our-past-to-inform-future-actions

Feb. 1 marks the start of American Heart Month and the beginning of a four-month celebration commemorating the first human-to-human heart transplant in Virginia. Now the second oldest heart transplantation program in the U.S., VCU Health Pauley Heart Center is honoring the landmark surgery performed by Richard Lower, M.D., on May 25, 1968, by offering a series of free health screenings and community events to advance heart health in Virginia.

Together with the Greater Richmond American Heart Association, VCU Health is challenging community members to make simple “sugar swaps” in their diets by replacing sugary drinks with healthier options such as seltzer or fruit-infused water. Drinking just one 12-ounce can of sugary soda daily increases your risk of dying from heart disease, according to a JAMA Internal Medicine Study.

“At the VCU Health Pauley Heart Center we are continually striving to bring understandable heart health-related educational materials to the community, in conjunction with our heart health initiatives, to help people take stock of their risk factors and propel them toward a proactive lifestyle and wellness mindset,” said Phoebe Ashley, M.D., a VCU Health Pauley Heart Center cardiologist. “Portion control and identifying the hidden truths behind many calories is the first step, before they step out the door, to shift one’s cardiovascular health balance.”

Ashley, who specializes in women’s heart health, is kicking off VCU Health’s community event series

at the “West Broad Village Goes Red Event” at 5:30 p.m., Feb. 1 at Gather, 2400 Old Brick Road, Glen Allen. While 1 in 3 adults have cardiovascular diseases, the event will focus on lifestyle modifications designed to reduce risk factors. Following suit is a “Go Red Day” on Feb. 2 in the VCU Medical Center main hospital cafeteria from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. The event will include free health screenings, information about new blood pressure guidelines and heart healthy diets, as well as a chance for attendees to win VCU men’s basketball tickets.

“The American Heart Association is excited to be working with VCU Health during American Heart Month to educate the community about its biggest health threat, heart disease, and ways to prevent it,” said Patti Jackson, vice president and executive director of the AHA in Richmond. “Whether it’s taking the stairs instead of the elevator or replacing sugary drinks with better choices, small, sustainable lifestyle changes play an important role in preventing heart attacks and strokes.” Other AHA events include a “Go Red Tennis Round Robin” at the Westwood Club on Feb. 2, and a “Go Red for Women Luncheon” at The Jefferson Hotel on Feb. 23.

Richard Lower, M.D., took part in 393 heart transplantations before he retired in 1989, a legacy that drives innovation at Pauley Heart Center to this day.

“We are very proud of our tradition of innovation in heart surgery, including performing the first heart transplant in Virginia, which was the 16th in the world,” said Vigneshwar Kasirajan, M.D., chair of the Department of Surgery. “Pauley Heart has built, and will continue to build, on these monumental efforts with cutting-edge innovation to serve the people of Virginia and beyond.” 

All VCU Health Lewis Ginter sessions scheduled for February will also focus on heart health. The following seminars will take place from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden’s Kelly Education Center, 1800 Lakeside Ave. All seminars are free and open to the public, but registration is recommended. Registration is available online at vcuhealth.org/events or by calling (804) 628-0041. Fruit-infused water and Mediterranean diet-style snacks will be offered at each session.  


Thursday, Feb. 1
“The Future of Heart Replacement Therapies”

Vigneshwar Kasirajan, M.D.; Keyur Shah, M.D.; and Daniel Tang, M.D., will discuss heart failure, the future of the VCU Health Pauley Heart Center and plans for the next 50 years of heart transplantation.   


Thursday, Feb. 8
“Peripheral Artery Disease – Know Your Risks and Your Options”

Peripheral artery disease is dangerous and can restrict blood flow to the main arteries, such as the kidneys, stomach, arms, legs and feet. Leaving this disease untreated can lead to infections, possible amputations of limbs and can cause a higher risk of stroke and heart attack. Join Luis Guzman, M.D., and Mark Levy, M.D., from VCU Health Pauley Heart Center, in a discussion about PAD and how it is diagnosed and treated.


Thursday, Feb. 22
“Are You Doing Your Part to Maintain a Healthy Heart?” 

According to the American Heart Association, 1 in 3 adults have cardiovascular diseases, but it is reversible. Join Phoebe Ashley, M.D., to learn about the risk factors that impact heart health, how men’s and women's risk factors are similar and different, and important lifestyle modifications to change a patient’s heart health course. She will also discuss the new AHA blood pressure guidelines and how they will affect the average person.