On Friday, February 16, 2018, the Department of Biomedical Engineering hosted its first annual Heart Day Symposium, as the capstone event of Miami Heart Month. Miami Heart Month was created by assistant professor Joshua Hutcheson, whose research is focused on the mechanisms of cardiovascular tissue maintenance and remodeling.

Research in Dr. Hutcheson’s lab, Cardiovascular Matrix Remodeling Lab (CMRL),focuses on the mechanismsthrough which tissues are built and maintained and the pathological changes that lead to disease. Their primary focus is on cardiovascular disease–the leading cause of death in Western societies. Their research combinesadvanced imaging, materials science, biomechanics, and molecular biology to connect cellular processes to tissue function. By understanding the ways that cells sense and respond to each other and to changes in their environment, researchers are developing new ways to detect initiators of disease and find interventions that restore tissue to a normal state. Accomplishing these goals requires an interdisciplinary effort with researchers working at the interface between bioengineering and molecular biology.

Dr. Hutcheson came up with the idea to bring awareness to cardiovascular disease through the presentation of the Miami community’s research. We welcomed researchers from several departments within FIU, as well as researchers at UM, Nova, and Baptist, who presented outstanding work! “The goal of the Heart Day Symposium was to gather cardiovascular researchers from across South Florida to learn from each other and discuss current research and lingering challenges in cardiovascular medicine”, says Dr. Hutcheson. “We look forward to building on this momentum to make Heart Day an annual event.”

With the help of the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation Lecture Series, the department was able to sponsor four speakers to give lectures and participate in a Q&A panel on Heart Day, as well as three additional speakers throughout the month of February.  We welcomed Dr. Frederick Schoen (Brigham and Women’s Hospital), Dr. Frank Scholl (Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital), Dr. Steven Bibevski (Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital), and Dr. Joshua Hare (University of Miami Miller School of Medicine), who each spoke about their take on cardiovascular research, and how they apply it in their daily lives.

We also had the privilege of welcoming Florida Heart Research Foundation and Miami Heart Research Institute to table at our poster session to promote and support excellence in cardiovascular research in Florida. Executive Director Nancy Cavalie informed attendees about their $25,000 award for “Stop Heart Disease Researcher of the Year Award” to conduct additional research in the cardiovascular field. For more information on how to nominate a cardiovascular researcher, click here.

The event concluded with Chocolate with the Chair, an annual event hosted by the Biomedical Engineering Society, in which students and faculty were able to network with each other, as well as BME chair, Dr. Ranu Jung, in a casual environment.

“Biomedical Engineers have been pioneers in developing technological solutions for diagnosing and treating heart disease, whether these be algorithms to detect arrhythmias or replacement of diseased valves; BME faculty and graduate students at FIU are doing cutting-edge research in this field,” says chair Dr. Jung. “The Miami Heart Month gives us an opportunity to share our research with clinical partners in greater Miami and the international experts who are invited to give lectures all through the month through our Coulter Lecture series. Of course, Valentines’ Day makes February special.”

Congratulations to the Department of Biomedical Engineering, Dr. Joshua Hutcheson, and all research participants who put together this outstanding event. We hope to continue the tradition of FIU’s Miami Heart Month, and continue the development to put an end to heart disease!