Dr. Nicholas P.D. Smyth, a thoracic and cardiovascular surgeon and pioneer in pacemaker design, died of heart failure in November in Naples, Fla. He was 88.

As a clinical researcher, Dr. Smyth invented pacemakers and device components, many of which are still used today. One such invention was the atrial J-lead wire, which was designed specifically to stabilize the lead wire's position in the atrium. He was also the coinventor of the world's smallest nuclear pacemaker.

Together with Dr. Seymour Furman and Dr. Victor Parsonnet, he devised the three-position pacemaker code, an alphabetical code that describes a particular pacemaker's functions. The Intersociety Commission for Heart Disease Resources (ICHD) subsequently introduced the three-position ICHD Code based on the trio's original concept.

Dr. Smyth was born in Ireland, and received his undergraduate degree from University College Dublin in 1949. He moved to the United States and earned his medical degree from the University of Michigan in 1954, then served from 1955 to 1957 in the surgery department of the Army hospital at Fort Chaffee, Ark.

After his discharge from the military, he moved to Washington, where he completed his residency in thoracic surgery at George Washington University Medical School. He remained on the university's faculty for almost 40 years, during which time he was also a teacher and surgeon at other institutions in the area. He was a founding member of the Heart Rhythm Society.

After his retirement, Dr. Smyth wrote a medical mystery novel, “Heartbreak.” A second novel is due to be published.

Cardiologists on the Move

Dr. Sumeet S. Chugh, an expert in heart rhythm abnormalities, has been named associate director of the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles, where he will also serve as the director of clinical electrophysiology.

Dr. Chugh's expertise focuses on diagnostic procedures, the use of pacemakers, defibrillators, biventricular devices, and radiofrequency ablation procedures to correct rhythm problems. He previously directed the cardiac arrhythmia center at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, where he was also section chief of clinical cardiac electrophysiology and associate professor of medicine.

In 2002, Dr. Chugh began the Oregon Sudden Unexpected Death Study, a population study of sudden cardiac arrest in patients at 16 hospitals serving the state's Multnomah County. The studies provided a comprehensive assessment of sudden cardiac arrest patients, leading to a major shift in the way in which the condition is researched, and treated. Dr. Chugh is now helping design and launch similar community-centered research studies overseas and leads the panel that is charged by the World Health Organization with performing a worldwide assessment of heart rhythm disorders for the Global Burden of Disease Study.

Dr. Chugh received his medical degree from Government Medical College, Patiala, in Punjab, India, then served as a research associate at Tufts New England Medical Center in Boston from 1989 to 1991. He began his internal medicine residency at Tufts Newton Wellesley Hospital, also in Boston, and completed it at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis. He remained in Minnesota, where he completed fellowships in cardiology at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis and in clinical cardiac electrophysiology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Dr. Chugh joined the faculty of Oregon Health and Science in 1999. He held several academic positions there before accepting his new responsibilities at Cedars-Sinai, where he will join Dr. Eduardo Marban, a leading cardiologist and heart researcher, who was appointed director of the institute in 2007 (CARDIOLOGY NEWS, June 2007, p.31).

Dr. Douglas B. Sawyer, Ph.D., has been named physician-in-chief of the Vanderbilt Heart and Vascular Institute in Nashville, Tenn., and chief of the division of cardiovascular medicine in the department of medicine.

He has served as interim chief of the cardiovascular division since May last year and is also the Lisa R. Jacobson Associate Professor of Medicine.

As a specialist in myocyte biology, Dr. Sawyer's research focus has included cell biology and signalling of cardiac myocytes, the mechanisms of congestive heart failure, myocardial remodeling, and chemotherapeutic cardiotoxicity, and development of new therapeutic strategies for cardiovascular disease.

Dr. Sawyer received his undergraduate, doctorate, and medical degrees from Cornell University, New York, and trained in internal medicine and cardiology at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. He was an assistant professor of medicine and molecular medicine in the cardiology section of Boston University Medical Center until 2006, when he moved to Vanderbilt as the Bailey Associate Professor of Cardiology.


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