Each February, medical communities across the nation celebrate American Heart Month to raise awareness for cardiovascular disease. At McGovern Medical School at UTHealth, the first Saturday of the month is always reserved for the Preventive Cardiology Forum, a special program that has been connecting practitioners, students, and the community to fight heart disease for 30 years.
“The Preventive Cardiology Forum began as a way to bring elements of cardiovascular disease prevention to the community to improve overall health,” says Francisco Fuentes, MD. “Over the last three decades, we have opened our doors to anyone who wants to learn about heart health.”
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, with large disparities in disease outcomes among the nation’s diverse populations.Through partnerships with the American Heart Association and institutions in the Texas Medical Center, the Preventive Cardiology Forum brings together top clinicians and scientists for intensive courses and roundtable discussions on cardiovascular disease prevention.
“Our primary goal is to educate the educators,” says Fuentes. “We want to ensure that physicians, nurses, and health professionals gain experience in every facet of cardiovascular medicine so that we can work toward a world without heart disease.”
Students from schools across UTHealth also play an important role at the Preventive Cardiology Forum. “We ask students to present posters and gain experience participating with this type of advanced scientific community,” says Fuentes. “They always bring excellent ideas and learn a lot from the forum.”
To provide practitioners with up-to-date scientific information about preventing cardiovascular disease, the forum focuses on a different topic each year. During the Preventive Cardiology Forum’s first meeting in 1990, experts shared what is now a standard of care: giving patients aspirin to help prevent heart attacks.
“We’ve come a long way since then,” says Fuentes. “Every year, it’s something new—new ideas, new solutions to prevent cardiac sudden death. The forum topics are always changing.”
Over the years, forum discussions have tracked cardiology’s shifting focus as the field has transitioned from emphasizing disease to focusing on individual patients. “We’ve moved to more personalized medicine,” says Fuentes. “At the forum, we’ve spent a lot of time talking about these changes and how to ensure patients receive high-quality care.”
With COVID-19 affecting health around the world, the next meeting in 2021 will highlight the potential impact of the virus on cardiovascular health.
As speakers descend on Houston each year to attend the forum, a network of philanthropic partners and volunteers helps ensure the program continues without a hitch. “The forum would not be possible without our donors or volunteers,” says Fuentes. “They support everything we do.”
The faculty and volunteers who donate their time to the Preventive Cardiology Forum receive a special gift to recognize their support. Each year, children with cardiovascular disease at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital color pictures for the forum’s volunteers.
“These drawings are the most wonderful reminder of why we host the forum,” says Fuentes. “We want to help the children and adults we serve have the best possible lives.”