International heart transplant expert to lead new Department of Cardiovascular Sciences

Tampa, FL (August 16, 2010) – USF Health, after a national search, has named renowned cardiologist Dr. Leslie W. Miller, a leading international specialist in heart failure and transplantation, to lead a new, expanded department of cardiovascular sciences at USF Health.

This new Department of Cardiovascular Sciences will bring a new level of heart care to Florida, providing advanced patient care for all kinds of cardiac patients, from those recovering from heart attacks or suffering from heart failure to those in need of a transplant or cardiac device. Cutting-edge cardiac research will include work in stem cell therapy, new drugs and the latest models of heart-assist devices.

Dr. Leslie Miller will direct USF Health Cardiovascular Sciences

“The recruitment of Dr Miller is another signal to our community that USF Health is ready to change the DNA of healthcare for patients throughout the region,” said Dr. Stephen Klasko, dean of the USF College of Medicine and CEO of USF Health. “We’ll take the best of our assets already here and combine them with Dr. Miller’s leadership to create new opportunities for clinical care, research and education.”

Dr. Miller is the former president of the International Society for Heart & Lung Transplantation and the former president of the American Society of Transplant Physicians. He has been widely published on the topics of heart failure and transplantation and has been involved in nearly 100 clinical trials.

“I’m thrilled that Dr. Miller is bringing his leadership and expertise to USF,” Dr. Klasko said. “His innovative approach to cardiac care will boost our research abilities and be a huge benefit for our students and our patients.”

Dr. Miller comes to USF from Washington, DC, where he is the former academic chair of cardiology and chief of the Integrated Cardiology Programs at Washington Hospital Center and Georgetown University School of Medicine. Dr. Miller also held the Walters Chair in Cardiovascular Medicine at Georgetown University. Dr. Miller also was the director of the Heart Failure/Transplant and Ventricular Assist Device Program at Washington Hospital Center.

“I think the potential for growth here at USF is really almost unparalleled,” Dr. Miller said. “The team that’s already been assembled is superb.  Florida is a large state with a population particularly suited to benefit from my research interests. The dean, the chairs, and the welcome I have received make USF the logical choice for me. USF is going to be the dominant institution in the state.”

At USF, Dr. Miller will hold the Edward C. Wright Chair of Cardiovascular Medicine and be the director / CEO of the USF Cardiovascular Clinical and Research Integrated Strategic Program, or CRISP.

In addition to leading the Institute’s broad array of cardiac services, Dr. Miller will expand his own research by collaborating with other USF researchers to work on using stem cell therapy to restore heart function for patients with heart failure.

“We’re going to bring some new cutting-edge therapies to the management of heart failure patients,” Dr. Miller said.

Dr. Miller also plans to do further research with the newest generation of mechanical assist device pumps, particularly in whether they may help patients who are not good candidates for heart transplants.

With Dr Miller’s arrival, USF Health and its partners will be able to provide the most state of the art clinical care as well as educating an entire new generation of heart specialists for the region and beyond.  Tampa Bay will become a leading center for cardiovascular research by leading cardiac clinical trials and quickly bringing research discoveries from lab bench to patient bedsides. It also will offer broad opportunities for collaborative research, not only within USF but also with USF partners, including its newest partner, The Jackson Laboratory, the world-renowned genomics powerhouse.

Dr. Miller’s work includes being principal investigator of a 2007 New England Journal of Medicine study showing that a new type of continuous flow heart pump could serve as a bridge to improve heart function in patients waiting for a heart transplant. He also is co-author of a textbook, the Handbook of Cardiac Transplantation, and has spent the past few months writing and editing a companion book to the Braunwald textbook of cardiology which will deal with mechanical circulatory support for the heart.

Dr. Miller praised the level of philanthropic and community support he has seen for USF Health across the region. “The difference between a good program and a great program is community support and philanthropy,” he said. “I am very hopeful that we’ll see the community rallying to support us in a meaningful way.”

That definition of community will expand with Dr Miller’s arrival. 

One of his major goals is to extend the reach and impact of USF into the community, to both physicians and patients. Among his community supporters is Dr. Louis S Saco, board chairman and CEO of the Watson Clinic, a Lakeland-based physicians’ group of more than 200 board-certified doctors offering 40 specialties.

“This is a double win for USF Health, with the forming of the new USF Cardiovascular Clinical and Research Integrated Strategic Program and having world-renowned Dr. Les Miller as the founding leader,” Dr. Saco said. “Drs. Klasko and Miller are forging the most state-of-the-art program dealing with cardiac disease in our communities, both now and in the future.”

Dr. Miller is a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Medicine. He has been awarded Outstanding Young Alumnus and Alumnus of the Year from that institution. He interned in medicine at the University of Missouri Medical Center and in surgery at the Washington University School of Medicine, where he also was a research fellow. He was a resident at Washington University and Barnes Hospital, then a cardiology fellow at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston.

Dr. Miller also has held faculty posts at St. Louis University School of Medicine and was the chair of the Division of Cardiology at the University of Minnesota for 10 years before taking the position at Georgetown and Washington Hospital Center.

He has received numerous teaching awards from both fellows and residents, including teacher of the year in internal medicine and the Proctor Harvey Chair. He served as the director of the cardiology fellowship at Minnesota for eight years. He has served on various national organizational boards, editorial boards and advisory panels. Those include serving on the CMS Advisory Panel on Transplants/Ventricular Assist Devices and on the Committee on Heart Failure/Transplantation for the American Heart Association.

“Dr. Miller is the kind of leader that USF Health needs as we work toward improving health care for everyone,” Dr. Klasko said. “He understands our vision in leading a health care revolution that brings Tampa Bay into the forefront of healthcare.  Dr Miller joins a growing group of healthcare leaders and faculty that are excited enough about the future of USF Health and healthcare in Tampa Bay that they want to be part of the team.”

- USF Health -

USF Health ( is dedicated to creating a model of health care based on understanding the full spectrum of health. It includes the University of South Florida’s colleges of medicine, nursing, and public health; the schools of biomedical sciences as well as pharmacy, and physical therapy & rehabilitation sciences; and the USF Physicians Group. With more than $380.4 million in research grants and contracts last year, the University of South Florida is one of the nation’s top 63 public research universities and one of only 25 public research universities nationwide with very high research activity that is designated as community-engaged by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

News release by Lisa Greene, USF Health Communications