University of Vermont

Stowe Family Pledges $1 Million for Cardiovascular Research

(From left) UVM Professor of Medicine and Director of Cardiology at Fletcher Allen Health Care David Schneider, M.D., donors Mary Evslin and Tom Evslin, and UVM Professor of Medicine and Director of Cardiac Electrophysiology Peter Spector, M.D.
(From left) UVM Professor of Medicine and Director of Cardiology at Fletcher Allen Health Care David Schneider, M.D., donors Mary Evslin and Tom Evslin, and UVM Professor of Medicine and Director of Cardiac Electrophysiology Peter Spector, M.D.

Stowe residents Tom and Mary Evslin have pledged a $1,000,000 performance grant to Fletcher Allen supporting research into improving treatment for atrial fibrillation (AF), a common type of rapid heartbeat.

The goal of the research project, led by Peter Spector, M.D., UVM professor of Medicine and director of Cardiac Electrophysiology at Fletcher Allen, is to use information from CT scans and recordings of the heart’s electrical activity to design patient-specific ablation therapy which is expected to significantly increase the rate of cure.

Approximately 5.5 million Americans suffer from AF which increases their risk for stroke and death. For the majority of these patients, medications do not provide a cure. The most common alternative is a procedure called catheter ablation that uses targeted application of heat to change how electricity flows through the heart. Unfortunately, this approach has a relatively low success rate compared to ablations performed to treat other heart rhythm disorders.

“Atrial fibrillation creates an enormous burden on patients and the health care system, so it’s very important to improve treatments for it,” said Dr. Spector. “We think the key is to develop better mapping of electrical activity in each patient’s heart during AF - something that is currently very difficult to do. With better mapping will come better targeting of the spots that need to be addressed, ultimately resulting in better outcomes for our patients. I’m deeply grateful to the Evslins for believing in the potential of this research, and for their incredible generosity.”

The $1 million will be provided in $250,000 increments over four years as benchmarks are met for both scientific and clinical aspects of the project.

“With this gift, the Evslins are providing a remarkable level of support for one of the core missions of Fletcher Allen: advancing the field of medicine through research,” said John Brumsted, M.D., president and chief executive officer of Fletcher Allen Health Care. “I know from personal experience that Dr. Spector and his colleagues have established one of the leading electrophysiology programs in the nation, and this research has the potential to significantly advance their capabilities to the benefit of patients everywhere. I thank the Evslins for their generosity and the faith in the quality of our research programs that this gift represents.”

The Evslins became aware of Dr. Spector’s research through David Schneider, M.D., UVM professor of Medicine and director of Cardiology at Fletcher Allen, who they had met while heart patients at Fletcher Allen.

“Our introduction to Dr. Schneider after the excellent care I received last summer opened our eyes to the cutting-edge medical research being done here,” said Tom Evslin. “He explained how revolutionary some of the research is and how difficult it is to get funding for this type of work in its early stages. Dr. Schneider also explained how the research “stars” at Fletcher Allen and UVM attract other researchers who want to be part of their teams and learn from them. As a result of those stars, we have a world class cardiac research center in Burlington that we want to keep.”

For more on the performance grant and research project, visit www.fletcherallen.org/Angel.