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CHICAGO, Nov. 12 -- The American Heart Association (AHA) has awarded its Clinical Research Prize for 2018 to William R. Hiatt, M.D., of the University of Colorado School of Medicine, for clinical studies that have “greatly expanded” the understanding of the causes and treatment of peripheral artery disease.

Hiatt received the prize on Sunday, November 11, during opening ceremonies at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2018, a premier global exchange of the latest advances in cardiovascular science for researchers and clinicians at McCormick Place convention center in Chicago. Association President Ivor Benjamin, M.D., of the Medical College of Wisconsin presented the prize, which is awarded annually by the AHA for outstanding achievement in clinical cardiovascular science.

In presenting the prize, Benjamin lauded the Colorado scientist for his “noteworthy discoveries” from clinical trials positively impacting the diagnosis and management of the pervasive health problem that is peripheral artery disease, or P.A.D. In an acclaimed career, AHA’s president said, “Dr. Hiatt has led successful peripheral artery research in four important areas.“

“First, he established and validated methods that address functional capacity and quality of life endpoints in patients with intermittent claudication, the painful leg muscle pain caused by inadequate blood flow. In trials of P.A.D., Dr. Hiatt found the treadmill to be an excellent functional test -- and this finding influenced debate over how best to assess walking distance and exercise performance.”

“A second important area of Dr. Hiatt’s clinical research has provided new understanding of the mechanism of walking impairment in P.A.D., showing that abnormalities in skeletal muscle metabolism better explain impaired functional capacity that limitations in limb blood flow and pressure.”

“Third, Dr. Hiatt has led major trials of exercise training and pharmacotherapy to improve exercise capacity and limb outcomes while preventing cardiovascular events in P.A.D. patients, including results pointing to supervised exercise training as the most important non-invasive therapy to improve walking distance in P.A.D.,” Benjamin said.

A related meta-analysis led by Hiatt challenged the benefits of aspirin therapy in preventing cardiovascular events in P.A.D. patients, leading the AHA to modify its guidelines, downgrading the strength of evidence of aspirin’s benefits as anti-platelet therapy, the AHA president noted.

“And a fourth major finding,” he continued, “is Dr. Hiatt’s contribution to knowledge of the epidemiology and prognosis of P.A.D., especially his finding that almost one-third of patients with risk factors for peripheral atherosclerosis had P.A.D. and half of them were not being recognized by their physicians.” Studies by Dr. Hiatt’s team also have increased understanding of the value of the ankle-brachial index in predicting P.A.D. risk.

“Few individuals have had as much impact on our ability to understand and overcome the adversities of peripheral artery disease as Will Hiatt,” Benjamin said.

Hiatt is Professor of Medicine in the Division of Cardiology’s Section of Vascular Medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver. He joined the medical faculty in 1981. Dr. Hiatt also is President of CPC Clinical Research, in Aurora, CO.

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