Miller School of Medicine Launches International Structural Heart Disease Interventional Fellowship

The Miller School of Medicine has launched an international fellowship program that will provide training and surgical experience with new technology-driven interventional treatments for structural heart disease. Participants in the one-year fellowship will spend eight months in Miami, two to three months at the Angiografia de Occidente in Cali, Colombia, and one month at ThoraxCenter in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

The program, which began July 1, is under the direction of Eduardo de Marchena, M.D., professor of medicine and surgery, Director of Interventional Cardiology and Associate Dean for International Medicine. De Marchena recently led a UHealth team that performed the University of Miami Hospital’s first mitral clip procedure — a new, minimally invasive transcatheter method of reducing mitral regurgitation in patients who are not good candidates for conventional surgery. It is one of the procedures that will be taught during the new program, which is intended for fellows with prior internal medicine, cardiology and interventional cardiology training.

“The whole field of interventional structural cardiology is expanding dramatically,” said de Marchena. “The technology is developing so rapidly that we needed to create a special training program. Ours is one of only eight or 10 interventional structural programs in the United States, but in a few years this will be a formal subspecialty of cardiology with its own board certification. Novel to our program is the fact that the fellow will train at leading sites on three continents.”

During the year of training, the fellows will be expected to master the risks, techniques and indications of procedures such as trans-septal left heart catheterization, ASD/PFO closures, percutaneous balloon valvuloplasty of aortic and mitral disease, TAVR and LAA exclusion catheter treatment of perivalvular leaks, as well as the mitral clip procedure. The international component of the fellowship is to provide a head start to participants, giving them familiarity with technologies and procedures not yet approved in the U.S., and the opportunity to work at sites that are leaders in cardiovascular device innovation.

The Miller School’s international programs have been partnering with Angiografia de Occidente — a high-volume clinical and structural research site that is the only location in South America performing the mitral clip procedure — for the past eight years. ThoraxCenter is considered one of the world’s foremost locations for cardiology thought leadership.

“Much of the research in new devices is being done abroad,” said de Marchena. “This program puts us in a position to do something completely new, and we will have a big international reach. We think it will be a model for future international training programs.”

The first recipient is Pablo Rengifo-Moreno, M.D., a PGY8 fellow who just completed the first year of an interventional cardiology fellowship at Jackson Memorial Hospital.

“This is an exciting opportunity for me to train on three continents, with three different patient populations, and learn new procedures from global leaders in the field of interventional structural cardiology at each location,” said Rengifo-Moreno. “As the first fellow, I will serve as an ambassador for the program. Even though the fellowship hasn’t been officially announced, word of mouth is already generating a great deal of interest.”

Major funding for the fellowship came from Arthur H. Hertz, Chairman and CEO of Wometco Enterprises, who is a UM Trustee and long-time supporter of the Miller School and of UM overall.

“I was delighted to be able to help the Miller School of Medicine launch this new fellowship program,” said Hertz. “These new procedures are truly a gift of hope for many patients, and it gives me great satisfaction to play a part in helping UM surgeons learn to use them to save lives.”

Other funding grants were provided by Medtronic and Angiografia de Occidente.

In addition to de Marchena, the Miller School faculty for the fellowship includes Carlos E. Alfonso, M.D., assistant professor of medicine and Cardiology Fellowship Program Director; Mauricio Cohen, M.D., associate professor of medicine; Alexandre C. Ferreira, M.D., voluntary associate professor of medicine; Claudia A. Martinez Bermudez, M.D., assistant professor of medicine; and Santinder K. Sandhu, M.D., professor of pediatrics and Director of the Pediatric Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory.

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