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December 15, 1999

A cardiologist who is as well regarded for his groundbreaking research into the causes of heart disease as for his clinical expertise and administrative acumen has been named chairman of the Department of Medicine at the Emory University School of Medicine.

R. Wayne Alexander, M.D., Ph.D., the R. Bruce Logue Professor of Medicine, began his new post Oct. 20. He has for the past 11 years directed the Division of Cardiology within Emory’s Department of Medicine – a division that has yearly been ranked among the nation’s top 10 cardiology programs by U.S. News & World Report.

Dr. Alexander succeeds Juha P. Kokko, M.D., Ph.D., in the chairmanship.

An acknowledged expert in kidney diseases and the Asa G. Candler Professor of Medicine, Dr. Kokko oversaw important growth in the Department of Medicine during his 14-year tenure at its helm. He has been named Associate Dean for Clinical Research in the Emory School of Medicine.

In addition to Cardiology, other divisions within the Department of Medicine include Allergy, Immunology and Rheumatology; Digestive Diseases, Endocrinology, General Medicine, Gerontology, Hematology/Oncology, Hypertension, Infectious Diseases, Pulmonology and Critical Care Medicine, and Renal Diseases.

"A national search of leaders in academic medicine capable of chairing not only the largest department in Emory’s medical school, but in the entire university, led us right back home to Wayne Alexander," says Thomas J. Lawley, M.D., dean, Emory University School of Medicine. "Dr. Alexander has distinguished himself within the medical school and nationally, through key positions with the American Heart Association, the American College of Cardiology and elsewhere – all while conducting novel research in vascular biology and continuing to treat patients and teach medical students, medicine residents and cardiology fellows."

Dr. Alexander earned a bachelor of arts from the University of Mississippi,

a master of science and Ph.D. degrees in physiology from Emory and his M.D. at Duke University School of Medicine. He completed an internship in medicine at Duke, a residency in medicine at the University of Washington, Seattle, then a cardiology fellowship at Duke. Before joining Emory’s cardiology faculty in 1988, he spent his career exclusively on the faculty of Harvard Medical School. While at Emory he has helped shape Emory Heart & Vascular Center, formed in the early 90s under the direction of Emory’s Douglas Morris, M.D., to unify Emory’s clinical cardiology services.

Understanding coronary artery disease at the molecular level has been at the core of Dr. Alexander’s research interests. He and Emory colleague Kenneth Bernstein, M.D., led the team that discovered the gene for the angiotensin II receptor -- the major hormone receptor controlling blood pressure – a finding which has helped Dr. Alexander further clarify for physicians the role high blood pressure plays in atherosclerosis, the dangerous clogging of arteries. He currently is concentrating on the angiotensin II receptor and its coupling to G protein subunits. He and his colleagues also have provided evidence for an important role in coupling the AT1 receptor to phospholipases C and D.

Dr. Alexander has led a number of large studies, including a $6.6 million study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in which he evaluated events that initiate atherosclerotic plaque formation. His current studies include a $1.2 million NIH grant

to evaluate research training in cardiology and a $1.6 million NIH grant to study vascular hypertrophy. His work has been published numerous times in the New England Journal of Medicine, Nature and many other peer-reviewed journals.

"Wayne has the energy and skill to steer this vital department into the next century," says James L. Madara, M.D., the Timmie Professor and Chair of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, who chaired the Medicine chairmanship’s search committee.

In addition, the "v-protectant" technology Dr. Alexander developed with former Emory colleague Russell Medford, M.D., Ph.D., has the possibility not only of inhibiting heart disease but also of reversing it. The pair is working to find the right drug compound to switch off a common group of genes that controls heart disease. They believe it will be possible to permanently alter -- and fortify -- blood vessel cells against damage caused by arterial blockage. The two doctors formed the company AtheroGenics in 1994 to commercialize this possible discovery. They also are working to develop blood tests to diagnose heart disease and monitor treatments.

Dr. Alexander has been listed in Who’s Who in America (1996), named a

Top Doctor in Atlanta for treating chronic diseases (Atlanta magazine, Sept. 1996) and listed in the book, "The Best Doctors in America" (Woodward/White Inc., Aiken, S.C., 1995). He has been asked to give keynote addresses to groups of physicians and scientists around the world and has himself chaired a number of medical conferences.

He currently serves on the board of directors of the American Heart Association at the national and southeastern regional levels, is a senior editor of "Hurst’s The Heart," 9th edition and has been named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Jane Alexander, R.N., his wife, has been an important member of Emory’s cardiac rehabilitation and cardiac risk reduction team for a number of years. The Alexanders live in Atlanta.




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