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UMass Medical School awarded $3.1M to monitor, improve heart attack care in Worcester

Community Surveillance of Coronary Heart Disease continues decades of research

By Sandra Gray

UMass Medical School Communications

December 15, 2016
  Robert Goldberg, PhD

Robert Goldberg, PhD

UMass Medical School has been awarded a four-year, $3.1 million grant by the National Institutes of Health for Community Surveillance of Coronary Heart Disease. The new grant, previously known as the Worcester Heart Attack Study, continues four decades of monitoring local heart attack patients to improve treatment and outcomes under the direction of Robert Goldberg, PhD, founder and principal investigator.

“We’re going to study contemporary trends in the magnitude of heart disease in the greater Worcester community. We’re going to monitor changing and current trends in the in-hospital and long-term outcomes of patients hospitalized with heart attacks, also called acute myocardial infarctions. And we’re going to look at changes taking place in patient management,” said Dr. Goldberg, professor of quantitative health sciences.

“What we want to learn is will these trajectories continue: Will incidence of heart attacks continue to decrease? Will patients’ prognosis continue to improve? And how much more effectively can patients be managed?” 

Funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute since the mid-1980s, the community-based study provides 40 years of data about the number of heart attacks among residents of the greater Worcester community and outcomes of their medical care during and after hospitalization. It also provides insights on how patients who experience heart attacks in the community are treated by physicians.

“We’re going to have a 40-year picture of heart disease, which is unique. What we’ve learned since 1975 is that even though Worcester heart attack patients have become older and sicker, often having multiple diseases, the incidence of heart attacks is declining, and patients’ prognosis both in-hospital and post-discharge is getting better,” said Goldberg. “We think this is because patients are being much more aggressively managed with evidence-based care.

U.S. Rep. James McGovern lauded the UMMS team and effort. “Heart disease impacts families across the country every year and there has never been a more important time to invest in life-saving medical research,” Congressman McGovern said. “I am grateful for this investment in our community and recognition of UMass Medical School as a leader in the fight against heart disease.”

The new funding will help Goldberg and his research team achieve these goals by monitoring trends of heart attack patients and patient management. Highly sophisticated data collection and analysis will be led by informatics expert Hong Yu, PhD, professor of quantitative health sciences, who has developed state-of-the-art computerized data retrieval systems for biomedical applications.

“With Dr. Yu’s expertise we’re going to ultimately see how the machine interpretation of data compares to human interpretation,” said Goldberg. “We hope to achieve automated detection of adverse events—for example in heart attack patients treated with anticoagulants, which current methods don’t ascertain.

“Most novel is that we’re going to use bioinformatics and very technical approaches to sift through available medical records, be they in paper or electronic form, and see how machines do compared to our manual abstractors,” Goldberg said. “The goal is to streamline the approach to data collection and data abstraction and give feedback to investigators and clinicians in real time.”

Related story on UMassMedNow:
Division of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine marks 30 years of preventing disease, improving health