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Cynthia J. Johnson, PhD
Director of Development Communications

Kevin J. Foyle, MBA, CFRE
Vice President
for Development

UTHealth patients and friends support improvements in heart attack care

UTHealth patients and friends support improvements in heart attack care

Richard Smalling, MD, PhD (center) is joined by reception hosts Keith and Alice Mosing. View the full AMICO reception album on UTHealth's Flickr stream

Heart attacks can happen at any time, but patients who suffer one in Houston have a greater chance of survival thanks to the work of Richard Smalling, MD, PhD. As Professor and Director of Interventional Cardiovascular Medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) Medical School, Smalling’s research and trials are paving the way to change the future of heart attack care across Texas and the United States.

An intimate gathering of Houstonians dedicated to dramatically improving cardiac care helped Smalling launch the next phase of the Alliance for Myocardial Infarction Care Optimization (AMICO) project. The event, which was held on June 12 to launch a $5 million fundraising initiative for the project, was catered by Tony’s and hosted at the home of Keith and Alice Mosing.

John Cryer III, who was treated during the first phase of the AMICO project, shared his story of how an early morning heart attack caused him to become a patient of Smalling’s. Thanks to a pilot program for the AMICO project, Cryer was transported in an ambulance with an electrocardiograph machine which allowed the paramedics to diagnose his heart attack and immediately provide a small dose of clot dissolving drug, which saved critical time and allowed Smalling to place a stent in his heart less than an hour after the onset of his pain. Says a grateful Cryer, “I understand the opportunity that the AMICO project offers to significantly reduce the number of deaths from heart attacks. It is an appreciation that I personally gained from a potentially devastating event.”

Saving Times, Saving Lives

Of the 1.6 million people in the United States admitted to the hospital with chest pain, 400,000 of them actually have what is commonly referred to as a “heart attack,” known in medical literature as a STEMI (ST Elevation Myocardial Infarction). Currently in the United States, the average time from onset of symptoms to restoring blood flow with a balloon angioplasty procedure is four hours or longer. UTHealth researchers, and others, have shown that in order to make a major impact in reducing the mortality from heart attacks, blood flow must be restored to the heart muscle within two hours of the onset of symptoms.

Previous research for the first phase of this initiative has shown that by placing electrocardiograph (ECG) machines in ambulances, paramedics could diagnose heart attacks earlier and administer a small dose of a clot- dissolving drug. This procedure has shown a decrease in mortality rate from the national average of 10 percent to as little as 2-3 percent. Philanthropic gifts previously raised to support AMICO were used to fund the creation of a database that is currently tracking STEMI patients in Houston and has been the core source of six publications. 

Next Steps

With this research in hand, the AMICO project is setting out to create a paradigm shift in how heart attacks are treated. Unlike treatment for trauma and strokes, treatment for heart attacks is not well organized in Texas. Collaborative efforts are already in place with stakeholders in STEMI care throughout the state and other locations across the nation. Smalling says, “It is my hope that we can expand our database and begin rolling it out statewide, develop a data and clinical coordinating center to house the database, and establish the infrastructure for a National Randomized Controlled Clinical Trial for STEMI patients.”

For more information about how you can support AMICO, please contact:

Kate Lucrezi
Director of Development
UTHealth Medical School