Leading with Heart


“A friend’s dad, Big Barney March, was a cardiologist in Alabama, and I saw how kind, caring, professional and smart he was. And I thought if I could be half of what he was, I would be proud and happy.”

Dr. Patterson is the chancellor of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, CEO of UAMS Health and a renowned cardiologist. It was after idolizing his childhood friend’s father while growing up in Mobile, Alabama, he made matters of the heart his life’s work. Dr. Patterson earned his Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Vanderbilt University, his medical degree from Emory University School of Medicine, and his Master of Business Administration from the University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler School of Business. He pursued his residency at Emory University Affiliated Hospitals, where in 1980, a team performed the first coronary angioplasty and in 1987, the first coronary stent in the United States. Dr. Patterson became a research fellow at the Cardiovascular Biology Laboratory in the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston and a clinical fellow in cardiology at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, Texas, where he joined the institution’s faculty in 1998.

“I became passionate about diseases of the heart, but I became even more so about trying to do something about them,” Dr. Patterson explains. As an investigator or co-investigator in cardiovascular research, Dr. Patterson received more than $60 million in grants from the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and American Heart Association. “I pursued the research pathway and got involved with the American Heart Association. It’s the one place where everybody can learn and think about heart disease. It’s not just for physicians or researchers or patients or their family members. What I appreciate about it is it is the one place where all these people can come together to think about impacting the burden of heart disease.”

Arkansas is the number one state in our country in the incidences of heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Heart disease is the number one cause of disability and death in our society,” Dr. Patterson elaborates. “For us to become more heart healthy as a state and a nation, we must start with our youngest generation. Did you know that if a child is obese when he or she graduates high school, there is more than a 90 percent chance they will be obese for the remainder of their lives? We must change this, and the first thing we all can do is go to a physician, get our blood pressure and cholesterol checked, and learn how to manage them.”

The American Heart Association’s report, Life’s Essential 8, explains that less than 30 percent of children meet high healthy heart standards. Of the youth in Arkansas, nearly 20 percent are obese, based on body mass index. Children are classified as obese if their calculated BMI is in the 95th percentile or above for their age. Of the 334,800 in our state’s population, 66,192 are obese. The American Heart Association is addressing this alarming rate of obesity in Arkansas through educational programs. The Kids Heart Challenge provides lessons, tools and activities to support both mental and physical well-being for Arkansas students and families and staff. Last year, 137,362 students in Arkansas participated.

Dr. Patterson will be recognized at the 2024 Heart Ball on Saturday, April 6, with the Worthen-Cornett Award for his commitment to addressing heart health. “Engaging in regular physical activity, eating a heart-healthy diet and avoiding tobacco are important to wellness, but so is mental health,” Dr. Patterson adds. “It can positively or negatively affect a child’s health and risk factors for heart disease and stroke. If every child in Arkansas were to do one thing each day to make their hearts healthier, I would be so proud, and I know Big Barney March would be, too.”

Inviting Arkansas

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