As medical director of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Heart & Vascular Center, Mandeep Mehra, MD, has seen how devices such as heart valve replacements and heart pumps save and extend the lives of gravely ill people. One of his most memorable patients was a teenage girl whose heart was failing.
“We pulled together a team of experts from the Brigham, Boston Children’s Hospital, and Harvard, locked the door, and no one left the room until we figured out how to save that girl,” Mehra says.
The multidisciplinary team used an established technology—a stent—in a new way to restore the girl’s heart function. This experience inspired the center’s physicians and scientists to broaden their partnerships with experts from various disciplines, including those from other institutions.
Longtime BWH supporter and technology investor Ken Schiciano sees great potential in bringing outside-the-box thinking to seemingly unsolvable medical challenges. Recently, he and his wife, Pixley, contributed $500,000 to establish the Translational Innovation Award at BWH to support such teamwork, including a new effort with Massachusetts Institute of Technology to find collaborative solutions in heart and vascular care.
“These cutting-edge solutions to vexing problems could change the face of serious heart conditions,” says Mehra. “MIT has the technological discovery environment and we have the clinical environment. Together, we can test new innovations and rapidly translate them to the patient’s bedside by implementing a ‘living laboratory’ concept. Our early success depends on people like the Schicianos, who are willing to invest in projects on the ground floor of our thought process.”
“BWH’s cardiovascular discoveries are impressive—from the world’s first successful heart valve surgery in the 1920s to new cardiac devices today,” says Ken. “Pixley and I believe deeply in the work happening here, and see our gift as a way to help BWH conquer challenging medical problems.”