Houston health care leader drives innovation, preventive cardiovascular care

Dr. Joseph Rogers has been at the helm of the Texas Heart Institute for around two years. He shares on the Houston Innovators Podcast about the innovative past, present, and future of THI. Photo via texasheart.org

For 60 years, the Texas Heart Institute has been a part of Houston's innovation DNA. The organization's founder, Dr. Denton Cooley, performed first total artificial heart implantation in 1969 at THI. Now, decades later, the institutions third CEO continues to lead the innovation within cardiovascular care.

"Despite all of the advances, cardiovascular disease is still one of the largest killers of Americans. It actually kills more Americans than all types of cancer combined," Dr. Joseph Rogers, who was appointed president and CEO of THI in 2021, says on the Houston Innovators Podcast.

Rogers shares just a fraction of what the medical professionals are working on at THI on the show — from developing a drug that can improve the efficacy cell therapies, vaccines, and more to revolutionary stem cell treatments. Even with all this groundbreaking innovation in cardiovascular treatment, Rogers says one of the most crucial elements is prevention.

"The challenge of preventative medicine in general terms is there has been an under investment in terms of research," Rogers says. "I also think that many of us who live in developed countries have said, 'I think I can just take a pill to manage an underlying problem and I can continue to do whatever I'd like.'

"We use medicine as a crutch to allow us to continue living an opulent lifestyle," he continues.

THI is on a mission to evolve that way of thinking, Rogers says, but it's a comprehensive cultural shift that's needed.

"Medicine can control about 20 percent of this," Rogers says. "The rest is driven by the social drivers of health — early childhood experiences, food deserts, a lack of safe exercise facilities."

Rogers says health care organizations are going to need to partner with other players — nonprofits, universities, local government — in ways never been done before. And THI is dedicated to this mission.

"We should act as a convener," Rogers says. "Houston is the place to do this.

"The reason I think this is such an important community to address this problem is it's the most diverse city in the United States. And I've never lived anywhere or heard of another city that I was so convinced believed they could do anything they set their minds to. It's about making the community aware of the problem and a potential solution — and then working on trying to solve it," he continues. "But I think all of the pieces are here to show the world how to do this at a community level."

Rogers shares more of his optimism about Houston as a heart health leader and innovator on the show. Listen to the interview below — or wherever you stream your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes.

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