Dr. Vesely wins Service to America Career Achievement Medal

Read The Tampa Tribune account of Dr. Vesely’s big career medal win…

Dr. David Vesely

Tampa, FL (Sept. 20, 2007) — A major national organization has awarded its lifetime achievement medal to David Vesely, MD, PhD, a ground-breaking research scientist at the University of South Florida and James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital.

A pioneer in the field of heart research, Dr. Vesely discovered a series of hormones that help regulate how the heart functions. The nonprofit, nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service (PPS) honored him with its Service to America Career Achievement Medal to celebrate excellence in federal civil service. He received the medal, including a $10,000 award, Sept. 19 at the PPS 2007 Awards Ceremony in Washington, DC.

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. He was one of three finalists for the Career Achievement Medal – including a former Nobel Prize winner and Library of Congress legislative specialist. Honorees are chosen based on their commitment and innovation, as well as their work’s impact on addressing the needs of the nation.

“This is a tremendous recognition of Dr. Vesely’s lifetime of research science,” said Stephen Klasko, MD, MBA, dean of the College of Medicine and vice president for USF Health. “He embodies the spirit of discovery as well as USF’s partnership with the Veterans’ Hospital.”

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’s contributions to science in general and to University of South Florida in particular are unprecedented,” said Abdul S. Rao, MD, MA, DPhil, senior associate vice president of USF Health. “He serves as a very important member of our Interdisciplinary Signature Research Program in Cardiovascular Diseases and as a senior mentor and role model for our faculty, staff and students. USF Health is very proud of Dr. Vesely’s long-standing association with this Institution and extends a heartiest congratulation for this well-deserved recognition.”

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.

- 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 physical therapy & rehabilitation sciences; and the USF Physicians Group. With $310 million in research funding last year, USF is one of the nation’s top 63 public research universities and one of Florida’s top three research universities.