University of Arizona Steele Children’s Research Center Leads Statewide Study of Congenital Heart Defects

Oct 15, 2019 | Cardiovascular, Congenital Heart Defect, Heart Disease

University of Arizona Steele Children’s Research Center investigators are leading a statewide study, funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as part of a national effort to conduct population-based surveillance of congenital heart defects across the life span.

Investigator Awarded $2.4 Million

Jennifer Andrews, PhD, assistant professor with the Department of Pediatrics and a member of the UA Steele Children’s Research Center, has received $2.4 million through a five-year CDC cooperative agreement to investigate survival, health-care utilization, other health conditions and outcomes over time for a variety of geographically, culturally and socioeconomically challenged subpopulations of Arizona children, adolescents and adults living with congenital heart defects reports CathLab Digest.

The Problem: Congenital Heart Defects

About 40,000 children are born every year with a heart problem. 25% of them will experience a critical heart condition requiring surgery during life’s first year. Thanks to advancements in treatments, most children born with these heart conditions can now be expected to live to into adolescence and adulthood but little is known of their outcomes.

The Study

The program’s sponsors and collaborators seek to improve their understanding the survival, health-care use and longer-term outcomes of those born with congenital heart defects across their life span. Improving the lives of individuals living with congenital heart disease necessitates a better understanding of these health issues and needs at all ages.

Robert C. Robbins, MD, UA President reports “This project will establish a much-needed understanding of the scope of congenital heart defects, a complex set of conditions that afflict more than 2.4 million people in the United States.” Dr. Robbins continued “Thanks to the progress from collaborative pediatric cardiology and cardiothoracic surgery teams, such as the one at the UA College of Medicine—Tucson, young people born with complex heart conditions are more likely than ever to grow up to be adults with fulfilling lives. Yet more than half of all those who are afflicted with congenital heart disease are adults, and by monitoring and treating throughout the life span, we will better understand how to help individuals of all ages.”

Expansion of the Cooperative Program

The cooperative agreement will now expand to include Scott Klewer, MD, professor of pediatrics, medicine and cellular and molecular medicine at the College of Medicine—Tucson.  Dr. Jennifer Andrews, director of research for the Congenital Heart Program. She and Dr. Klewer are members of the UA Saver Heart Center.


Collaborators on the project include individuals and organizations across the state invested in the well-being of individuals with congenital heart defects from birth through adulthood. These include: Dr. Klewer, Banner University Medical Group; Wayne Franklin, MD, Phoenix Children’s Hospital; Tabitha Moe, MD, Arizona Cardiology Group; Jeffrey Rockow, MD, Cardiac Kids; Andrew Arthur, MD, El Rio Community Health Center; Eladio Pereira, MD, Mariposa Community Health Center; David Rogers, CEO, Sunset Community Health Center; Cindy Huie, chair for the Adult Congenital Heart Association Board of Directors; and Tim Flood, MD, and Dianna Contreras, the Arizona Department of Health Services Arizona Birth Defects Monitoring Program.

Lead Research/Investigator

Jennifer Andrews, PhD

Scott Klewer, MD

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