The GenTAC Alliance honored three giants in the field of aortic disease at the kick-off of the GenTAC Aortic Summit 2020 on October 8: H. Eser Tolunay, PhD, Patrice Desvigne-Nickens, MD, and Reed Pyeritz, MD, PhD.
“It is my pleasure to dedicate this Aortic Summit to Drs. Tolunay, Desvigne-Nickens, and Pyeritz for their unique contributions to GenTAC and to the global effort to improve human health surrounding genetic aortic disease through education, research, and enhanced clinical care,” said Kim Eagle, MD, chair of the GenTAC Alliance.
Dr. Eagle presented each of the honorees with a hand blown glass flame representing their flame for science and partnerships.
“To me, this wonderful piece of hand-blown glass highlights the uniqueness of the GenTAC Alliance and our global reach,” said Dr. Eagle. “And, because of your delicate care and support of the Alliance and the uniqueness and importance of its research, we will endure over time. Thank you for making this spectacular, life-saving journey possible.”
H. Eser Tolunay, PhD, who is originally from Turkey, was instrumental in the creation of the GenTAC Alliance Registry in 2006 and the establishment of the GenTAC Alliance in 2017. Dr. Tolunay completed her PhD in biochemistry at Georgetown University and was involved in cardiovascular drug discovery at Searle Pharmaceuticals prior to joining NHLBI in 2001. During her 18 years at NHLBI, she served as Deputy Chief of Vascular Biology and HTN Branch, chaired the NIH Coordinating Committee for Lymphatic Research, and organized a PAD (peripheral artery disease) Roundtable at NIH in partnership with the American Heart Association.
Patrice Desvigne-Nickens, MD, earned a degree in chemical engineering at MIT, her medical degree at the University of Pennsylvania, and completed her internal medical residency at Thomas Jefferson University. She was then an NHLBI medical staff fellow. Her special interest is in health disparities and cardiovascular effects on women and minorities. After practicing medicine in Detroit and Baltimore, she returned to the NHLBI in 1991 where she served as program director in the Heart Failure and Arrhythmias Branch. Dr. Desivigne-Nickens currently handles scientific development and management of various cardiovascular grants, oversees the clinic trial network, international trial, and is a leader in the GenTAC Alliance.
Reed Pyeritz, MD, PhD, is the recently retired William Smilow Professor of Medicine at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. He studied aortic genetic disorders for 43 years and has published more than 600 papers in medical journals. Dr. Pyeritz’s work led to the first clinical trial of beta-blockers for Marfan syndrome. A community activist, Dr. Pyeritz established the first family support group for people with Marfan syndrome which evolved into The Marfan Foundation.