UA Cardiothoracic Surgeon Dr. Zain Khalpey Receives Prestigious Fulbright Award

Zain Khalpey, MD, PhD, FETCS, associate professor of surgery at the University of Arizona, surgical co-director of Heart Transplant and director of Mechanical Circulatory Support and Mitral Valve Program at Banner – University Medical Center Tucson, has been awarded a 2015-16 Fulbright U.S. Scholar.

Awards in the Fulbright Distinguished Chairs Program are viewed as among the most prestigious appointments in the Fulbright Scholar Program. Candidates are eminent scholars and have a significant publication and teaching record.

Beginning in this fall or early 2016, Dr. Khalpey will spend three months at the Medical University of Gdansk in Poland, continuing his collaborative work with Ryszard T. Smolenski, MD, PhD, in the field of translational adult stem cell therapy to repair damaged hearts.

Injection of adult stem cells into the damaged heart muscle of animal models and humans has shown an improvement of cardiac function. That improvement, unfortunately, has been temporary, disappearing after three to six months. Dr. Khalpey’s research seeks to better understand the bioenergetic mechanisms of how of stem cells work. Understanding that process would enable researchers to enhance and prolong the effect of stem cell therapy for patients recovering from acute and chronic ischemic heart disease.

Dr. Khalpey, who is the Sarver Heart Center Tony A. Marnell, Sr. Endowed Chair for Research in Cardiac Surgery, joined the UA Department of Surgery in 2013. He came to the UA from Harvard Medical School (Brigham and Women’s Hospital) and Columbia University in New York City.

Dr. Khalpey has published more than 100 manuscripts, abstracts and book chapters on heart and lung transplantation involving basic science and clinical outcome studies. He is an American Heart Association reviewer and an Early Career Reviewer for the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

He has received numerous teaching and institutional awards, including the Hunterian Medal and Professorship of Surgery from Royal College of Surgeons, England; the Winston Churchill Medal, bestowed by HRH Queen Elizabeth II, Winston Churchill Memorial Trust, London, UK; Excellence in Teaching Award, Harvard University; United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Fellowship from Switzerland and France; and the Solly Medal and Prize for Surgery from the University of London.

Dr. Khalpey is one of more than 1,100 U.S. faculty and professionals who will travel abroad through the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program in 2015-2016.  The Council for International Exchange of Scholars, a division of the Institute of International Education, administers the Fulbright award, the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding among  the people of the United States and the people of other countries.

“This international endorsement solidifies our efforts to bridge our two universities to explore the metabolomics of stem cell-matrix interactions and it catalyzes the therapy for faster translation into man,” said Dr. Khalpey. “It’s truly humbling to receive this award.”

“I am proud of Dr. Khalpey receiving the Fulbright Award,” said Leigh Neumayer, MD, UA Department of Surgery chair.  “It provides an excellent opportunity to expand the department’s international academic collaborations, and recognizes the outstanding quality of Dr. Khalpey’s work as a surgeon-scientist and his promising research to develop new treatments to help patients heal from the damage of heart disease.”

Contact: Jo Marie Barkley, 520-626-7219

Release Date: 
03/25/2015 - 5:32am
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