The postwar era brought renewed growth for Cleveland Clinic. A new generation of leaders and new fields of medicine encouraged specialization, notably in fields associated with heart care. The pace of innovation accelerated, as well.
Irvine H. Page, MD, a chemist and clinician from Indianapolis City Hospital, was well known for his work on the causes of hypertension and atherosclerosis. He was named chairman of the newly formed Research Division in 1945. Dr. Page avoided the standard practice of creating departments within the Research Division, which often had the effect of containing research findings within departmental silos. His goal was to have researchers share innovative ideas as they discussed lab work and patient observations.
Dr. Page continued his pathbreaking research while serving as chairman of the department. He proposed a “mosaic” theory of hypertension that emphasized multiple causes. While still in Indianapolis, Dr. Page and his team had isolated the hormone angiotensin. In 1948, he and his team were the first to isolate the hormone serotonin and its association with hypertension.
Cleveland Clinic also pushed boundaries in terms of hiring and supporting women at a time when medical research was overwhelmingly dominated by men. Harriet Dustan, MD, joined Dr. Page’s research team in 1948. She was among the first researchers to propose a link between reducing sodium in the diet and lowering hypertension and cardiac risks.
Dr. Dustan’s continuing research focused on the mechanisms by which hypertension affected the body and early anti-hypertension agents. Her work played a significant role in making hypertension a treatable disease. She would become the first woman on the Board of Governors of the American Board of Internal Medicine. The Council on Hypertension named an annual award in her honor recognizing significant research in the field. In 1950, Willem Kolff, MD, PhD, inventor of the artificial kidney, joined Cleveland Clinic and started the first dialysis program in the United States. As head of artificial organ research, he continued to advance artificial kidney research as well as leading innovations in artificial heart research.
One of the most important breakthroughs in the history of heart care occurred at Cleveland Clinic in 1958. Pediatric cardiologist F. Mason Sones, MD, discovered, using a process that would become known as selective cineangiography, that it was possible to safely capture moving images of the coronary arteries of the heart using marker dye. This process was used to verify the causes of heart attacks and angina, and provide targets for treatment. Sones worked tirelessly to perfect and promote the technique, convincing an at-first skeptical medical establishment of its clinical value. Today, virtually every intervention used to treat angina and heart attacks is derived from this discovery.
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