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November 23, 2004

Jonathan A. Epstein, MD, Named the First William Wikoff
Smith Chair in Cardiovascular Research

The Penn Faculty Member Also Promoted to Professor

(Philadelphia, PA) – Jonathan A. Epstein, MD, Professor in the Cardiovascular Medicine Division of the Department of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and Director of the Penn Molecular Cardiology Research Center, has been named the inaugural recipient of the newly created, two million dollar William Wikoff Smith Chair in Cardiovascular Research. He will serve for a term of 10 years.

“To be recognized in this way is truly an honor, not only have I been named the inaugural recipient of this Chair, but also because this is a foundation that is so committed to the study of basic science and how it relates to cardiovascular disease,” says Dr. Epstein, referring to the W.W. Smith Charitable Trust.

“Dr. Epstein is considered one of the top 10 investigators in molecular cardiology research in the world. This honor befits his talents and drive to find the causes of common forms of congenital heart disease,” says Michael S. Parmacek, MD, Chief of the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine in the Department of Medicine at Penn. “His pioneering contributions are recognized globally and his many discoveries have led to increased understanding of the mechanisms of cardiovascular development and common forms of congenital heart disease.”

The W.W. Smith Chair in Cardiovascular Research will provide much-needed funding to battle cardiovascular disease, which takes 900,000 American lives each year. It remains the single greatest cause of death in the United States, not only for the nation as a whole, but also for every major population group, whether categorized by gender, race, or ethnicity. “The creation of this new chair will further enhance Penn’s reputation as a leader in the fight against heart disease. Dr. Epstein’s outstanding career and groundbreaking research will not only further Penn’s effort, but also the hopes of the Smith family to successfully find a cure for this deadly disease,” says Dr. Arthur H. Rubenstein, Executive Vice President of the University of Pennsylvania for the Health System and Dean, School of Medicine.

Dr. Epstein is recognized internationally as a leading authority in cardiovascular development and the molecular and genetic basis of congenital heart disease. He graduated magna cum laude in biochemistry from Harvard College in 1983 and earned his MD degree from Harvard Medical School in 1988. He completed his internship and residency in medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in 1991; and then remained at that institution to complete a research/clinical fellowship in cardiology in 1994 and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute postdoctoral fellowship for physicians in 1995. Following an appointment as Instructor in Medicine at Harvard, he joined the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in 1996 as Assistant Professor of Medicine. A year later, he was also appointed Assistant Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology. Because of his outstanding work, Dr. Epstein received early promotion to Associate Professor of Medicine and Cell and Developmental Biology in 2001, and was appointed Director of the Molecular Cardiology Research Center the same year. He is a practicing cardiologist at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and directs the Physician-Scientist training program in the Department of Medicine.

Penn and The W. W. Smith Charitable Trust have had a longstanding partnership in advancing our common missions of education and biomedical research. Over the past 25 years, the Trust’s extraordinary support has helped numerous Penn students pursue their undergraduate education and allowed many of our scientists and physicians to conduct important basic research projects in cancer, AIDS, heart disease, and diabetes – studies that may not have been funded through the standard governmental funding mechanisms.

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PENN Medicine is a $2.7 billion enterprise dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and high-quality patient care. PENN Medicine consists of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine (founded in 1765 as the nation’s first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System (created in 1993 as the nation’s first integrated academic health system).

Penn’s School of Medicine is ranked #3 in the nation for receipt of NIH research funds; and ranked #4 in the nation in U.S. News & World Report’s most recent ranking of top research-oriented medical schools. Supporting 1,400 fulltime faculty and 700 students, the School of Medicine is recognized worldwide for its superior education and training of the next generation of physician-scientists and leaders of academic medicine.

Penn Health System is comprised of: its flagship hospital, the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, consistently rated one of the nation’s “Honor Roll” hospitals by U.S. News & World Report; Pennsylvania Hospital, the nation's first hospital; Presbyterian Medical Center; a faculty practice plan; a primary-care provider network; two multispecialty satellite facilities; and home health care and hospice.

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