Sakthivel Sadayappan, PhD, MBA, professor and associate chair of basic research of internal medicine and director of the heart branch of the UC Heart, Lung and Vascular Institute, is a tireless researcher and mentor at the UC College of Medicine. Sadayappan has dedicated his career to better understanding cardiovascular health and the risk factors related to heart failure.
“Heart failure is the number one killer worldwide and we’re trying to understand the mechanism. We try to understand how we can prevent the development of heart failure. It is not a disease, it is a chronic disorder, it takes time to develop the disease. If we know early on, we can prevent the disease development. That's my focus,” said Sadayappan.
Specifically, Sadayappan has spent years researching why some populations have a higher risk of heart disease. People in South Asian countries experience heart disease at a rate four times higher than the general population, and they develop the disease early in life. Sadayappan is trying to understand how genetic mutations, other cardiovascular risks like diabetes and hypertension, and lifestyle choices contribute to heart disease.
“We tried to look at whether a single genetic defect is sufficient to cause heart disease and our results determined that it is not enough. So, there is more than just that mutation,” said Sadayappan. “Now, we are looking at other aspects in addition to the mutation, and we are trying to connect these together to understand what exactly is happening, why these populations have a higher risk for cardiovascular disease than any other group.”
This is one of the main projects in Sadayappan’s lab at the UC College of Medicine, where Sadayappan works with post-doctorate trainees, research assistants, graduate students and undergraduate students. It’s one of many roles where Sadayappan serves as a mentor to young researchers to help them develop their skills and leadership.
“I try to encourage them in a way that they become independent,” said Sadayappan. “I am here to show them the direction. I am here to give them the project. I am here to give them the facilities, opportunities and funding. It is their role to take these opportunities and get the work or the project done.”
Sadayappan’s research efforts also led him to become vice-chairman for basic research in the Department of Internal Medicine. In this role, he oversees the department’s basic research and supports researchers on various levels including developing ideas, writing grant applications, following UC policies and identifying resources related to facilities, infrastructure and more. He’s also charged with developing new collaborations within the division.
Sadayappan’s dedication to his research, his trainees and the college make him an invaluable asset at the university.
“I am so lucky to be here—to work in the clinical department, to work in the College of Medicine where I can train students and I can collaborate across departments,” said Sadayappan. “This is a unique environment. I have been in this country for at least 19 years. I have visited almost 50 institutions. This is one of the best institutions that you have education, research as well as community service. You have all the opportunities to improve and then to advance the basic clinical research.”