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A legacy in Cardiology

Dr. Derek Boughner has been at University Hospital since it opened its doors in 1972 and throughout the last four decades has contributed to the hospital’s rich history of excellence in cardiology. Dr. Boughner, a Robarts Scientist and cardiologist, was honoured with a 2014 Dean’s Award of Excellence to recognize his many contributions to the field.

Much of Dr. Boughner’s career has involved the development of new techniques for imaging the heart. He is credited with opening the first Echocardiology Laboratory in Canada at University Hospital in 1972. And in the 1990s, he did early work evaluating three-dimensional echocardiography. Today, the 3D technique is widely used by cardiac surgeons to help see the exact structure of a valve in three-dimensions to assist in planning surgery.

Dr. Boughner also pioneered the use of a specific imaging technique used to show blood flow in the heart. “We developed the first cardiac Doppler back in the mid-seventies,” he said. “You can look inside the heart with the Doppler probe and see which way the blood is flowing, if it is leaking, where it is leaking and can estimate how stuck a valve is.” This Doppler-ultrasound is now a standard part of cardiac ultrasound.

His other major interest has been the evaluation of prosthetic heart valves from a biomechanical point-of-view to determine what goes on with the valve and why they fail. He and his team have been working to develop new prosthetic valves using bioengineered tissue from radial artery cells. While they have made considerable progress, they have yet to be successful in creating a workable valve.

“That’s what’s fun about research,” he said. “It is never waste of time even when it falls flat, because even when it fails, you realize there was some other aspect worth exploring.”

Dr. Boughner said it is the fun of research that has kept him going through the years. As a physician-scientist, his research in the lab has always been guided by the problems he encounters in his clinic and a desire to find practical solutions to those problems.

“My primary practice is heart valve disease and so I could see a direct application between my research and my patients,” he said.