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Seed Grant Recipient Helps Give New Hope to Cardiac Patients

Physicians reading PET scans in the future may be able to make a much more precise diagnosis, thanks partly to a young scientist in Chicago and the AMA Foundation.

Nils Johnson, MD, has been working for the last year on a project to help develop mathematical models for PET (positron emission tomography) scans – a non-invasive procedure that allows physicians to detect blocked arteries. Dr. Johnson hopes to remove some of the guess-work physicians use when visually assessing the condition of vessels and the heart in cardiac patients by applying a more precise, automated and quantitative measurement to the scans.

Dr. Johnson, who is a resident in internal medicine at the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, conducted his research with an AMA Seed Grant, working with renowned physician Lance Gould, MD, of The University of Texas at Houston – considered the “father” of PET scanning.

Dr. Johnson recently completed a paper describing his research and it has been accepted for publication by the Journal of Nuclear Medicine. He’s now begun the next step of research and is attempting to create similar quantifiable methods for determining the efficacy of medications taken by heart patients on their blood flow.

With a long-term goal of becoming an academic cardiologist, Dr. Johnson says the AMA Foundation Seed Grant he received played an instrumental role in helping him make plans for the future.

“The AMA grant came at a time when I didn’t have a lot of research experience and it helped me decide I wanted to get involved in academic medicine,” he said. “It also helped me make the decision to get into Northwestern’s program.”

Not only that: It helped pave the way for new thinking in how physicians evaluate a key form of medical information. Nils Johnson is just one of the bright stars of the future who are benefiting from the AMA Foundation – and helping shape medicine for all of us.