Grant, Augustus O.
Augustus O. Grant
Each year, more than 960,000 people die in the United States as a result of heart disease—including heart attack, stroke, and other cardiac disorders. As one of the top cardiologists in the country, Dr. Augustus O. Grant has dedicated his career to treating and preventing this killer. For nearly thirty years he has been a part of two of the leading health institutions in the United States, serving as a physician and faculty member at Duke University Medical Center—ranked among the ten best heart centers nationwide—and as a president of the American Heart Association, one of the largest voluntary health organizations in the United States. In his work, Grant has vigorously promoted heart health and underscored the important partnership between physicians and patients in fighting heart disease.
Augustus Oliver Grant was born in 1946 in Jamaica. He attended the distinguished St. Jago High School in Spanish Town, earning the Jamaica Scholarship in 1963. He left Jamaica to attend the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, where he earned undergraduate and medical degrees, and then went on to the University of California at San Francisco to study pharmacology, completing a doctorate in 1975.
Grant trained as a medical resident at the University of Manitoba in Canada from 1975 to 1977. He began his association with Duke University in 1977 as a fellow in cardiology, joining the faculty at Duke's School of Medicine in 1980. In 1986-87 he traveled to Germany as an Alexander von Humboldt research fellow at the University of Saarland.
From 1992 to 1994 Grant served as president of the Association of Black Cardiologists, an organization that is dedicated to eliminating disparities related to cardiovascular disease among people of color. Under his leadership the association created the Annual Cardiology Fellows program, which provides scholarships to medical students and sponsorship for fellows and residents to attend medical conferences and workshops.
In his research and clinical practice, Grant has focused on the understanding and treatment of patients with cardiac arrhythmias—that is, patients with heartbeats that are too slow, too fast, or irregular. Although arrhythmia is a common cardiac condition, its mechanisms are still not well understood by physicians, and it is a frequent cause of death. Grant's work aims to identify new ways to diagnose, treat, and prevent arrhythmias.
In 2003 Grant was elected president of the American Heart Association (AHA), the nation's largest organization dedicated to fighting heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular disorders. He was the first Duke cardiologist to be named to the post. By this time, Grant already had a long history of service to the AHA, beginning nearly three decades earlier in 1974, when he first received a grant to support his graduate research at the University of California. Since then he has served as an active member of the AHA, reviewing grant applications and organizing scientific meetings.
As president of the AHA, Grant acted as the public face of the 22.5-million-member organization and as a national advocate for heart health. At the beginning of his presidency Grant announced that one of the AHA's major goals would be to reduce the incidence of heart attack and stroke by 25 percent by 2010 through clinical research, physician training, and especially more proactive patient education. "We have developed many expensive technologies for treating heart disease, and while these have saved many lives, patients have an important role to play by leading healthier lives," Grant said in a July of 2002 interview with Inside, a newsletter published by the Duke University Medical Center. "The AHA can play a crucial role in educating patients about the control they have in preventing heart disease and stroke."
At the same time that Grant was asking individuals to take more responsibility for their own health, in January of 2004 the AHA put pressure on the U.S. Congress to do more at the legislative level to support Americans' cardiovascular health. "Many Americans promised themselves they would improve their health in the New Year—eat better and get more exercise," Grant wrote in a letter to members of Congress outlining the AHA's priorities, as reported on the Science Blog Web site that month. The letter went on to say: "Now it is Congress's turn to make the same pledge to all Americans. Heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases claim far too many lives—nearly 1 million per year—and almost a quarter of all Americans are afflicted with at least one type of cardiovascular disease." Grant also asked Congress to support the fight against cardiovascular disease by passing stroke treatment and prevention legislation, enhancing funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reauthorizing a child nutrition program, supporting regulation of tobacco products, and providing more money for 911 emergency systems.
Grant's term as AHA president ended in 2004. He continued to serve as a professor of medicine at Duke University Medical Center and as codirector of the hospital's Heart Station, where patients receive noninvasive cardiac care. In 2007 he took on the position of vice dean of faculty enrichment in the School of Medicine. According to U.S. News & World Report, Duke ranked among the top ten hospitals in the nation for cardiac care and heart surgery in 2008.
In addition to his clinical practice and teaching duties, Grant remained active in the medical community. He was a fellow of the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association and a member of the Association of Black Cardiologists, the Biophysical Society, the Heart Rhythm Society, and the American Society of Clinical Investigation. He has sat on the editorial boards of Circulation, Circulation Research, and the Journal of Molecular and Cellular Cardiology, and he served as deputy editor of the Journal of Cardiovascular Electrophysiology and consulting editor to the American Journal of Physiology. He continued to act as a benefactor to St. Jago High School in his native Jamaica through the Grant Foundation.
In 2008 Grant received the Gold Heart Award from the American Heart Association, the organization's highest honor recognizing distinguished service in advancing the goals of the AHA, and the Distinguished Faculty Award from the Duke Medical Alumni Association.
At a Glance …
Born Augustus Oliver Grant in 1946(?) in Jamaica. Education: University of Edinburgh, MB, ChB, 1971; University of California at San Francisco, PhD, pharmacology, 1975.
Career: University of Manitoba, medical resident, 1975-77; Duke University Medical Center and School of Medicine, fellow in cardiology, 1977-80, professor of medicine, 1980—, vice dean for faculty enrichment, 2007—.
Memberships: American College of Cardiology; American Heart Association, past president; American Society of Clinical Investigation; Association of Black Cardiologists, past president; Biophysical Society; Heart Rhythm Society; National Advisory Council for Biomedical Imaging; Sarnoff Cardiovascular Research Foundation.
Awards: Gold Heart Award for volunteer service, American Heart Association, 2008; Distinguished Faculty Award, Duke Medical Alumni Association, 2008.
Addresses: Office—Duke University Medical Center, Box 3504 DUMC, Durham, NC 27710.
Inside, July 1, 2002; September 16, 2002.
"Best Hospitals: Heart & Heart Surgery," U.S. News & World Report, 2008, http://www.usnews.com/directories/hospitals/index_html/specialty+ihqcard (accessed August 26, 2008).
Biography of Augustus O. Grant, Duke University School of Medicine, http://medschool.duke.edu/modules/som_administration/index.php?id=27 (accessed August 26, 2008).
"American Heart Association Challenges Congress to Commit to Americans' Health," news release, January 20, 2004, Science Blog, http://www.scienceblog.com/community/older/archives/K/0/pub0605.html (accessed August 26, 2008).
—Deborah A. Ring
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