DALLAS, June 12, 2018 — The American Heart Association—the world’s leading voluntary organization dedicated to building healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke—announced today research grants totaling more than $28 million to the scientific teams that will create a new research network focused on understanding the causes of atrial fibrillation (AFib). The new knowledge they discover will provide a basis to generate more effective ways to treat and prevent the disease.

An estimated 6.1 million or more Americans were living with AFib as of 2010, making it the most common heart abnormality in the U.S. That number is expected to rise to 12.1 million by 2030.

Among the six institutions within the research network, the Sarah Ross Soter Center for AFib at the Cleveland Clinic will focus on questions in AFib care, seek new therapies, and test behavior change programs that show promise in preventing worsening symptoms from AFib. The Center Director is Mina Chung, MD, a clinical cardiac electrophysiologist who serves on the faculty at Cleveland Clinic. Sarah “Sally” Soter, a native of Columbus, Ohio, who lives in Palm Beach, Fla., and suffers from AFib, selected the center and is funding it with a $5 million gift along with her husband, Bill. A portion of the gift will support collaborative grants across the research network.

Two Decision-making and Choices to Inform Dialogue and Empower AFib patients (DECIDE) Center grants were also awarded. The DECIDE Centers will create or adapt shared decision-making tools, validate them and directly compare and evaluate the decision tools and approaches in patients with AFib and their clinicians. The two DECIDE Centers are:

  1. The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) - American Heart Association (AHA) DECIDE Center at the University of Utah will study the effectiveness of approaches in patient-centered care to empower patients to become active participants in their own care. PCORI invested $2.75 million to support this center. The Association’s research support is made possible by a gift from David and Stevie Spina of Massachusetts. David Spina has served in a variety of volunteer leadership positions with the AHA and currently serves on the AHA’s national board of directors. 

    The PCORI-AHA DECIDE Center’s mission is to compare different decision aids to see which most effectively promotes shared decision making and improves the quality of care for patients with AFib and will be led by Angela Fagerlin, PhD. Fagerlin is Professor and Chair of the Department of Population Health Sciences and a research scientist and core investigator at the Salt Lake City VA Center for Informatics Decision Enhancement and Surveillance (IDEAS). The center investigators will collaborate with clinician-scientists in Cardiology and Pharmacy; along with researchers from the Knowledge and Evaluation Research Unit at Mayo.

  2. The Joe and Linda Chlapaty DECIDE Center at Stanford University will create an innovative shared decision-making pathway that includes a patient-designed interactive tool, clinician education and patient coach training. The Center, generously funded by the Chlapatys of Columbus, Ohio with a gift of $5 million, will be led by Paul Wang, MD, professor of medicine and bioengineering and director of The Chlapatys have also given an additional $500,000 to support collaborative research across all six centers.

Three additional centers focused on AFib research are:

  • Boston University, Boston: This Center will examine AFib risk and stroke risk in patients with AFib, with a specific focus on African American individuals. The goal is to advance AFib precision medicine by predicting individuals at risk and providing insights essential to develop effective prevention, treatment, and management strategies. The Center’s director is Emelia Benjamin, MD, professor of Medicine and professor of Epidemiology at Boston University Schools of Medicine and Public Health. 
  • Northwestern University, Chicago: Here, researchers will explore how AFib develops and how it causes stroke.  Rod Passman, MD, professor of Medicine and Preventive Medicine at Northwestern, will serve as Center director.
  • Vanderbilt University, Nashville: This Center will conduct studies to test how inflammation may cause and worsen risk across patient populations and will be led by Dan Roden, MD, professor of Medicine, Pharmacology and Biomedical Informatics.

“Establishing these centers with leading investigators from renowned institutions is an important step in discovering biological, genetic and behavioral connections affecting the occurrence and impact of AFib and stroke related to this common arrhythmia.  Bringing together the best science while empowering patients to be active participants in their own care should significantly improve the quality of life for those who suffer from AFib,” said American Heart Association Chief Science Officer Rose Marie Robertson. “Science saves lives, and we know how very personal this is to our donors and supporters – especially the Soter and Chlapaty families.”

In its entirety, the AFib Strategically Focused Research Network will allow the Association to enhance the understanding of the causes, biology, pathophysiology and epidemiology of AFib to improve patient outcomes. Visit the Strategically Focused Research Network page for more information.


About the American Heart Association

The American Heart Association is devoted to saving people from heart disease and stroke – two of the leading causes of death in the world. We team with millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, fight for stronger public health policies, and provide lifesaving tools and information to prevent and treat these diseases. The Dallas-based association is one of the world’s oldest and largest voluntary organizations dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. To learn more or to get involved, visit heart.org or call any of our offices around the country. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

For Media Inquiries: 214-706-1173

Jennifer Pratt: 214-706-2229; Jennifer.Pratt@heart.org 

For Public Inquiries: 800-AHA-USA1 (242-8721)

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