Dr. Sanjiv Kaul announces plans to step down as KCVI director to focus on research

Oct. 4, 2018

Dr. Sanjiv Kaul

Sanjiv Kaul, M.D., director of the OHSU Knight Cardiovascular Institute (KCVI), announced Oct. 2 that he will step down as institute director Dec. 31 to focus on research. OHSU School of Medicine Dean Sharon Anderson will become interim director of the Knight Cardiovascular Institute Jan. 1.

Dr. Kaul’s announcement during a KCVI faculty meeting completes the transition he began Sept. 1, 2017, when he started cutting back on clinical and operational responsibilities to write grants to support the next phase of research at the institute. At that time, Joaquin Cigarroa, M.D., professor of medicine, took on the additional title of division head of cardiovascular medicine, which Dr. Kaul held until then.

Dr. Kaul said he is choosing to solidify his end date as director now to make way for new leadership to take KCVI to the next level. Dr. Kaul’s partnership with Dr. Albert Starr led to the transformational $125 million gift from Phil and Penny Knight and the creation of the KCVI in 2012. As founding director, he leveraged philanthropy to build a world-class institute achieving excellence in cardiovascular clinical care and research.

“Dr. Kaul transformed cardiac care and research at OHSU,” said Dr. Anderson. “I honor and appreciate his outstanding accomplishments and I support his decision to focus on the work he is uniquely positioned to do – cutting-edge research and describing the capabilities and aspirations of the KCVI to potential donors.”

Aspirations realized

Dr. Kaul came to OHSU from the University of Virginia in 2005 aspiring to build a nationally recognized heart center. The entire cardiovascular enterprise at OHSU today comprises 555 individuals: 125 providers (physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants); 80 researchers, and 350 nurses and support staff.

The KCVI has been recognized as a top heart center nationally for the last three years by U.S. News & World Report. Its national ranking is based on quality metrics, outstanding outcomes and a reputation for cutting-edge heart procedures, such as complex valve replacements and surgical techniques and advanced imaging and prevention strategies.

The cardiovascular research program is focused on improving patient outcomes by achieving earlier diagnosis of disease, more accurate monitoring of its progression, and tailoring therapy to the molecular basis of disease. Today, in addition to basic and translational research, the KCVI is conducting over 100 cardiovascular clinical trials and is a top enroller in some of the most competitive multi-site trials in the cardiovascular market today.

Recognized for highly significant discoveries

Research discoveries during Dr. Kaul’s tenure as director have included a receptor with therapeutic potential to prevent vascular deterioration and the development of a total artificial heart prototype. Dr. Kaul was a co-author on the paper by Shoukhrat Mitalipov, Ph.D., director of the OHSU Center for Embryonic Cell and Gene Therapy, published in the journal Nature in August 2017, describing the internationally acclaimed breakthrough of a gene-editing technique to correct hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

Dr. Kaul received the American Federation for Clinical Research Outstanding Investigator Award given to someone under 45 years of age for their body of work; the Distinguished Scientist Award from the American College of Cardiology, and the James B. Herrick Award for Outstanding Achievement from the American Heart Association. The only cardiologist in Oregon to receive these distinctions, the American Heart Association recognized him for “his highly significant discoveries expanding the field of cardiovascular diagnostic imaging and greatly enhancing the care of patients with heart and blood vessel disease.”

In pioneering research in the areas of contrast echocardiography and nuclear cardiology, Dr. Kaul throughout his career has redefined key aspects of coronary physiology and pathophysiology that have informed patient care.

The Knight gift that launched the KCVI also significantly elevated scientific infrastructure for all faculty at OHSU, including the addition of two world-class imaging facilities: the Multi-Modality Imaging Center at the Oregon National Primate Research Center and the Center for Radiochemistry Research.

“I am so proud of the KCVI and all that we have achieved over the past 13 years,” said Dr. Kaul. “It is essential to me that I do all I can to position the institute for its strong future. Being able to focus my energies will assist in that while others lead the important work of taking KCVI to newer heights.  I am also very grateful to Penny and Phil Knight without whose generosity we could not have become a world-class institute.”

Building a strong future

Dr. Anderson will lead the Knight Cardiovascular Institute as it strengthens the institute across missions including rebuilding the Heart Transplant Program, along with the leadership Dr. Cigarroa and Nabil Alkayed, M.D., Ph.D., professor of anesthesiology and perioperative medicine, and director of research for the KCVI.

She announced at the faculty meeting her intention to recommend that the KCVI remain a free-standing, multidisciplinary institute in the School of Medicine to further the accomplishments possible when researchers and clinicians collaborate to bring the latest knowledge and care to patients.

To assist the work of rebuilding and to inform the search for a new director of the KCVI, a human resources/culture review and an external review that was announced by OHSU President Danny Jacobs on Sept. 10 will begin shortly to identify strengths and opportunities and provide recommendations for leadership, structure, and scope going forward.

At the Oct. 2 faculty meeting and in a message to all KCVI faculty and staff, Dr. Anderson recognized and thanked all members of the KCVI team for their perseverance and dedication to patient care and the continuity of their cardiovascular research over these last difficult months. She asked all members of the institute to join her in envisioning the next phase of KCVI or, as she called it, KCVI 2.0.

“You are all doing so much outstanding work,” Dr. Anderson said. “Please join me in honoring that work by rolling up our sleeves, shaping a strong model for the Knight Cardiovascular Institute and going forward to a bright future.”