Distinguished Scientists 2012 -- Charles B. Higgins, MD, FAHA
Dr. Higgins graduated from Jefferson Medical College, summa cum laude (1967). He was an intern and resident in Department of Surgery, UCLA Medical Center (1967-1972) during which time he also was a research fellow in Department of Medicine, UCSD Medical Center (under supervision of Eugene Braunwald, MD). He was a resident in Department of Radiology at UCSD (1972-1974) and fellow in Cardiovascular Radiology at Stanford Medical Center (1974-75).
He was on the faculty in the in the Department of Radiology at UCSD Medical Center from 1975 to 1984 and was promoted to Tenured Professor in 1980. He has been Professor of Radiology at UCSF Medical Center from 1984 to 2012. He was designated Distinguished Professor in 2009.
Early research focus was the investigation of compensatory mechanisms and cardiovascular reflexes in response to heart failure and a variety of cardiovascular lesions. The main focus of research in 1976 until 1984 was to demonstrate the potential for contrast enhanced computed tomography for the identification and quantification of the size of acute myocardial infarction using a prototype ECG gated CT scanner implemented at UCSD under the direction of Dr. Higgins.
These studies were the first to identify delayed contrast enhancement of myocardial infarction and established the cellular basis (increased distribution volume of contrast medical due to loss of myocardial cellular membrane integrity) for this phenomenon. In the past decade cardiovascular CT has become widely applied in the evaluation of ischemic heart disease; nearly 30 years after this seminal research.
Since 1984, the primary focus of his research has been the exploration of the scientific basis for the use of magnetic resonance (MR) in cardiovascular disease and the development of clinical and research application in acquired and congenital heart disease. The first ECG gated MR images of the human heart were produced in his laboratory circa 1983. The first clinical service for cardiovascular MR was initiated by Dr. Higgins at UCSF Medical Center in 1984.
The research of Dr. Higgins has been supported by numerous grants from the American Heart Association and the NIH during the past 30 years. He was the recipient of a NIH Career Development Award in 1976. He has had multiple cycles of a NIH Research Training Grants extending over nearly 30 years. More than 100 clinical and research fellows from the USA, Canada, and multiple countries of Asia, Europe, and South America have participated in cardiovascular MR research and received clinical training in cardiovascular MRI under his supervision.
He has given more than 80 named lectureships in North America, South America, Asia, and Europe. He has been awarded honorary memberships in medical societies in Canada and multiple countries in Europe, Asia, and South America. He has received the Distinguished Achievement Award of AHA (1990), Outstanding Researcher Award of RSNA (2000), and Gold Medal of Society of Cardiovascular MR (2011).