Public Release:  Northwestern Medicine cardiologist is American Heart Association Physician of the Year

Neil J. Stone, MD, was instrumental in developing new cholesterol guidelines

Northwestern Memorial Hospital

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IMAGE: Northwestern Medicine's Neil J. Stone, MD, was named the American Heart Association Physician of the Year on June 25, 2014. view more

Credit: Northwestern Medicine

Neil J. Stone, MD, a Northwestern Medicine® cardiologist for more than four decades, was named the American Heart Association's 2014 Physician of the Year, the organization's honor given annually to a physician who has rendered "outstanding accomplishments."

"As a renowned expert in preventive cardiovascular medicine and lipidology, Dr. Stone has had an enduring and critically important impact not only on the mission of the American Heart Association, but in the lives of the many patients he has cared for, as well as the medical students and residents who have benefited from his training and mentoring," said Nancy Brown, chief executive officer of the AHA. "We thank Dr. Stone for his tireless efforts to advance scientific knowledge, raise awareness of risk modification, and ultimately improve health outcomes and quality of life."

Stone, who is also medical director of the center for vascular disease at Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute and the Robert Bonow Professor in medicine-cardiology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, pursued cardiology after his uncle, grandmother and her brothers all died of premature cardiac death before they were 50 years old. His father also died of heart disease, leading him on a lifelong mission to understand and try to prevent the disease that is the number one killer of men and women in the United States.

"I am humbled to receive an award that so many outstanding individuals have received," said Stone. "As a recognition of my life's work in trying to prevent heart disease, it is especially gratifying."

For more than 30 years, Stone volunteered on various committees with the AHA. In 2009, he chaired a committee commissioned by the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute to update cholesterol guidelines. After four years of work, the committee released its new evidence-based recommendations in November 2013. The guidelines, which shifted from the traditional practice of using LDL and non-HDL numbers as target cholesterol goals, generated robust dialogue in the medical community. For months, Stone carefully and consistently explained to practitioners the methodology, practice and long-term benefits for patients of the newly released guidelines.

"There are few times in a life of service when one can impact potentially millions of lives. Winners of the AHA Physician of the Year Award have done exactly that," said Clyde Yancy, MD, chief of cardiology and associate director of the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute. "Dr. Neil Stone, through his deep understanding of science, his unending commitment to medicine and his genuineness to help alleviate the burden of heart disease has championed heart disease prevention. He put his personal and professional integrity on the line; he withstood at times withering criticism; but now his efforts stand tall as a beacon to better health and an answer to the heft of coronary artery disease. Never before has there been a more deserving recipient of this award."

The AHA also recognized Yancy, who is the Magerstadt Professor at Feinberg, as recipient of the AHA's 2014 Gold Heart Award. That is the highest honor the association gives in recognition of continued distinguished service. Yancy is a past president of the AHA.

"Drs. Stone and Yancy have been pillars of our cardiology program at Northwestern for years," said Robert O. Bonow, MD, MS, vice chairman of the Department of Medicine, director of Northwestern's Center for Cardiovascular Innovation, and a past AHA president. "We are proud that these AHA national awards recognize them for their expertise, vision, and leadership. These are qualities that their patients and colleagues see in them every day."

AHA leaders will present the awards to Stone and Yancy on June 24 and 25 in Dallas. On June 26, the doctors will be feted in a reception at Northwestern Medicine's Prentice Women's Hospital.

"Here at Northwestern we hold these two colleagues and friends in the highest esteem," said Patrick M. McCarthy, MD, chief of cardiac surgery and director of the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute. "It is gratifying to see the American Heart Association recognize their important contributions."

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