Dr. Vesely a finalist for Service to America Career Achievement Medal

David Vesely, MD, PhD

A pioneer in the field of heart hormone research, David Vesely, MD, PhD, is a 2007 Finalist for the Career Achievement Medal awarded by the Partnership for Public Service (PPS). Dr. Vesely is a professor of Medicine and Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology at USF Health and chief of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism at the James A. Haley Veterans’ Affairs Medical Center in Tampa.

Dr. Vesely is one of three finalists competing in the PPS category for Career Achievement Medal, an award recognizing a lifetime of accomplishments in public service by a federal employee. Honorees are chosen based on their commitment and innovation, as well as their work’s impact on addressing the needs of the nation. Medal winners are announced each September at the Service to America Medals (Sammies) awards ceremony in Washington, D.C. See 2007 Finalists—Career Achievement Medal.

In the last 25 years, Dr. Vesely has discovered three hormones made by the heart that, because of their ability to lower blood pressure and promote the excretion of excess salt, may significantly benefit the treatment of congestive heart failure, kidney failure and cancer. Within in a 24-hour timeframe, the cardiac hormones are capable of eliminating in test tubes as many as 97 percent of human pancreatic, prostate, breast, colon, and kidney adenocarcinomas.

Many of the most common forms of cancer — breast, colon and prostate cancers — are adenocarcinomas. These cancers, which begin in cells that line certain internal organs, have gland-like properties. Pancreatic adenocarcinoma is the most lethal of all cancers. Even with surgery and current cancer chemotherapy, patients with pancreatic cancer are expected to live only four months after the disease takes hold.

Dr. Vesely’s work, published earlier this year in the journal In Vivo, has shown that up to 80 percent of human pancreatic adenocarcinomas growing in laboratory mice can be cured. Even in human pancreatic cancers that are not cured, the tumor volume decreases to less than 10 percent of that in untreated mice. In this case, Dr. Vesely found, the mice do not succumb to cancer, but rather continue to live a normal lifespan.

The death of Dr. Vesely’s wife, Clo, in 2002 from breast cancer spurred him to expand his research beyond pancreatic cancer. As a result, Dr. Vesely found that two of the cardiac hormones he discovered eliminated two out of every three human breast carcinomas growing in mice, with the third hormone eliminating 50 percent.

Dr. Vesely’s path of discovery can be traced back to his home state of Nebraska, where he was a member of Creighton University’s class of 1967. Next, he pursued an MD and PhD at the University of Arizona, completing the two degrees in three years. In 1969, he received a prestigious National Institute of Health scholarship, which at the time was awarded to only two people.

The Tampa VA medical center, where Dr. Vesely works, cares for more than 1.5 million patients each year, making it the nation’s busiest outpatient veterans’ medical center. It has earned national distinction as a Diabetes Center of Excellence, one of only two in the entire VA medical system.

Dr. Vesely had been a faculty member at the USF College of Medicine since 1989. He helped establish and directs the USF Cardiac Hormone Center, a multidisciplinary center with faculty from Molecular Medicine, Internal Medicine, Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology.

Throughout his career, Dr. Vesely has been recognized as an outstanding supervisor, teacher and mentor to medical and graduate students, residents, fellows and postdoctoral fellows. He has compiled an impressive portfolio, with 296 peer-reviewed scientific publications and three books to his credit. He received the Outstanding Teacher Award three times and has frequently been the featured speaker at major national and international scientific conferences.

Dr. Vesely plans to begin a clinical trial further testing the heart hormones in patients with congestive heart failure, and continues to seek partners for clinical trials with cancer patients.