Elevated blood pressure and its effects on the heart has been a consistent focus throughout Dr. Martin LeWinter's research career. Originally believed to be caused by depressed contraction function, patients with heart failure more likely experience malfunction rooted in a stiffening of the heart muscle when the heart fills with blood between each contraction.
"As you age, everything gets stiff, less flexible," explains LeWinter, a 2007–08 University Scholar and professor of medicine and molecular physiology and biophysics. "When the heart fills, which is like blowing up a balloon, the pressures during filling can cause heart failure if they get too high."
A graduate of New York University School of Medicine, LeWinter was an intern, resident and chief resident in internal medicine at Bellevue Hospital in New York City before traveling across the country for a cardiology fellowship at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine.
"It was a fantastic environment that allowed me to be productive early on and opened my eyes about how to do research. That was a life-changing thing." In 1985, he moved to Vermont to become chief of cardiology at UVM and its medical center.
Over the years he has collaborated with fellow faculty in molecular physiology and biophysics to look at how proteins work in failing hearts, and colleagues in the cardiothoracic division of surgery to examine cells at work in biopsied failing hearts.
LeWinter also sees patients in the cardiology clinic at Fletcher Allen, covers rotations as an attending cardiologist in the cardiology unit, and teaches UVM medical students.
"Dr. LeWinter is a nationally and internationally respected investigator," says Dr. David Schneider, professor of medicine and chief of cardiology. "His research has advanced our understanding of heart failure and improved our ability to care for patients."