James T. Willerson, MD, is the president and medical director of the Texas Heart Institute (THI). He is also director of Cardiology Research, co-director of the Cullen Cardiovascular Research Laboratories, and co-director of Vulnerable Plaque Research at THI.
Dr. Willerson was appointed president-elect of THI in 2004 and became president and medical director in 2008.
He was president of The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston from 2001 to 2008 and was named the Alkek-Williams Distinguished Professor there at the same time. He holds the Edward Randall III Chair in Internal Medicine at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston.
He is also an adjunct professor of Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine and at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. He is the former chief of Cardiology at St. Luke's Medical Center and the former chief of Medical Services at Memorial Hermann Hospital.
Dr. Willerson is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of The University of Texas at Austin, where he has been named a distinguished alumnus. He was a member of Alpha Omega Alpha at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, where he earned his medical degree and has also been named a distinguished alumnus. He completed his medical and cardiology training as an intern, resident, and research and clinical fellow at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and his training as a clinical associate at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland.
He is the former chairman of the National American Heart Association Research Committee and of the NIH Cardiovascular and Renal Study Section. He has received the Award of Merit from the American Heart Association and has served as a member of the board of directors and steering committee of the National American Heart Association. Before coming to The University of Texas Medical School at Houston, Dr. Willerson was professor of Medicine and director of the Cardiovascular Division at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas, and director and principal investigator of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute's Specialized Center of Research under a major grant from the NIH. Upon his departure, UT Southwestern Medical School honored Dr. Willerson by establishing the James T. Willerson Distinguished Chair in Cardiovascular Medicine.
Dr. Willerson has served as visiting professor and invited lecturer at more than 240 institutions worldwide. He has received numerous national and international awards, including the James. B. Herrick Award from the American Heart Association. He was named the American College of Cardiology's Distinguished Scientist for 2000. He has been elected a Fellow in the Royal Society of Medicine of the United Kingdom and has been honored by cardiology societies around the world. Dr. Willerson has been elected into the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences. In 2002, he received the Distinguished Service Award from the Council of Clinical Cardiology of the American Heart Association. He also received the Career Achievement Award at the Transcatheter Cardiovascular Therapeutics 2005 meeting. The award honors his outstanding work as an internationally distinguished cardiologist, research scientist, educator and noted editor of Circulation. Columbia University Medical Center named Dr. Willerson as the 2007 Lewis Katz Visiting Professor in Cardiovascular Research and awarded him a Katz Prize in Cardiovascular Research.
In July 2011, Dr. Willerson assumed the office of president for the International Academy of Cardiovascular Sciences, succeeding Sir Magdi Yacoub. The mission of the IACS (www.heartacademy.org) is to promote cardiovascular education of professionals and lay people and to recognize major cardiovascular achievement throughout the world. Headquartered in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, it was founded in 1996 to provide the organizational structure for the world-wide sharing of research and education information in the field of heart health. View the video of Dr. Willerson's message (5 minutes) to the 4th World Congress of the Academy in February 2011, in Baroda and Ahmedabad, India.
He has served on editorial boards for numerous professional publications including Journal of Clinical Investigation, Circulation Research, Journal of the American College of Cardiology, and New England Journal of Medicine. Dr. Willerson served as the editor-in-chief of Circulation, the premier journal of the American Heart Association, for 11 years—the longest tenure of any editor with an AHA publication. He is editor-in-chief of the Texas Heart Institute Journal. He has authored or co-authored, edited or co-edited 24 textbooks and more than 900 scientific articles. Dr. Willerson is one of 4 editors for Cardiovascular Medicine, Third Edition, published in 2007.
His research work has concentrated on elucidating mechanisms responsible for the conversion from stable to unstable coronary heart disease syndromes, the prevention of unstable angina and acute myocardial infarction, the detection and treatment of unstable atherosclerotic plaques, and the discovery of the genes and abnormal proteins responsible for cardiovascular disease. In 2001, he and his colleagues at the Texas Heart Institute in Houston and at the Hospital Procardico in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, began bone marrow-derived stem cell transplantation directly into the hearts of patients with severe heart failure. He and his colleagues have demonstrated objective and subjective evidence of clinical improvement, enhanced blood flow, and improved contractile function in the hearts of these patients. In May 2004, the work was expanded to the Stem Cell Center, Texas Heart Institute in Houston where clinical trials are being conducted for patients with severe heart injury and heart failure, peripheral vascular disease, as well as patients having suffered heart attacks.
Born in Lampasas, Texas, Dr. Willerson and his family moved from Dallas to Houston in 1989 for him to serve as Chairman of Medicine for The University of Texas Health Science Center Medical School. Dr. Willerson created the Institute of Molecular Medicine for the Prevention of Human Diseases, a basic and clinical research effort devoted to the discovery of genes and proteins that cause the human diseases of our time. It is his strong conviction that from these discoveries will come the knowledge to predict, prevent, and cure heart disease, high blood pressure, strokes, aneurysms, heart attacks, and the deleterious effects of aging. Dr. Willerson also founded TexGen Research, a collaboration which brings together all of the institutions in the Texas Medical Center to collect blood samples necessary for the discovery of those genes and proteins.
Dr. Willerson and his colleagues have received 13 patents related to their work in coronary heart disease and detecting vulnerable plaques. Dr. Willerson has been a founder of two biotechnology companies that have been traded publicly, Encysive and Volcano.
May 7, 2013
THI President Among Men of Distinction
James T. Willerson, president and medical director of the Texas Heart
Institute was honored as one of
Houston's 2013 Men of Distinction. The award was
presented to Dr. Willerson and three others, at the group's annual
luncheon, benefitting medical research and treatment for children. Dr.
Willerson is a world reknowned cardiologist and scientist. He has helped
pioneer a number significant medical advancements, particularly in the
field of using adult stem cells to help heal damaged hearts. Before
taking the leadership role at THI, Dr. Willerson was president of The
University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston's Texas Medical
Center.The Men of Distinction annual awards, begun in 2007, are to
"recognize Houston men who have distinguished themselves through
excellence in community achievements, thereby providing support for
superior biomedical research, education and patient care in the Texas
Medical Center and directly benefitting the Houston community." See Houston Chronicle photo gallery. See also www.menofdistinction.org.
February 6, 2012
Dr. James T. Willerson has earned the honor of being profiled in the February 3, 2012, issue of Circulation Research. Published by the American Heart Association, it is widely considered the most prestigious journal in cardiovascular medicine.
"Jim Willerson is a living legend in cardiovascular medicine," says the editor's preamble to the profile. "He is a splendid epitome of the scholar who has reached the pinnacle in all three facets of the academic triple threat: patient care, research, and education."
The profile points out that "[Dr.] Willerson's far-reaching fame is in part due to his research, which has included the elucidation of mechanisms that cause coronary heart disease to convert from stable to unstable, the detection and treatment of vulnerable atherosclerotic plaques, the discovery of genes and proteins responsible for cardiovascular disease, and, more recently, the treatment of heart failure patients with stem cells."
Read the full profile.
Contact information for Dr. James T. Willerson