September 12, 2017

The Math Behind a Heart Defect; Trump Picks Alumnus for Economic Council

Surgical instruments

Math alumnus Jack Cuzick (PhD, ’74), a pioneer in cancer prevention screening, isn’t the only member of CGU’s math community taking math training out into the medical field.

Professor Marina Chugunova, who serves as the director of the Institute of Mathematical Sciences, is now collaborating on an important project related to a life-saving form of pediatric surgery.

More than 40 years ago, the “Fontan procedure” was first described by a French doctor as a surgical intervention to help infants who, due to a birth defect, are born with only a single functional ventricle of the heart.

The Fontan procedure compensates for the lack of a second ventricle chamber by diverting venous blood right to the pulmonary arteries, and that helps the patient to recover and develop normally.

But a serious problem—and the reason for Professor Chugunova’s involvement in a new project—eventually develops as a result of the procedure.

The sole functioning ventricle must do twice the expected work, which results in these patients later experiencing heart failure in the third decade of their lives and requiring heart transplantation if the problem is detected in time. Too often, though, that detection happens too late.

In collaboration with the Division of Vascular Surgery at Toronto General Hospital, Professor Chugunova and her colleagues at the University of Toronto and the Ukraine Academy of Science are modeling blood pressure distribution after the surgical procedure.  Their efforts will provide doctors with data on blood pressure that will help them detect the onset of heart failure in time for life-saving intervention.

Chugunova’s involvement in this project came via her attendance of a math modeling workshop a year ago during which the Toronto doctors presented their problem to workshop attendees.

“In the long term, doctors understand that the Fontan procedure results in heart failure,” explained Chugunova.  “But by modeling blood pressure distribution, we will produce data that may help anticipate these failures in the early stages.  We are giving doctors important information, and we are giving these patients something even more important: hope.”


TRUMP’S PICK:  The White House has announced President Trump’s intention to appoint math alumnus Tomas J. Philipson to the Council of Economic Advisers, which was established some 70 years ago to provide the US president with key advice for economic policy.

Philipson, who holds the Daniel Levin Chair in Public Policy at the University of Chicago, holds a doctorate in mathematics from the University of Pennsylvania and received his master’s in mathematics at CGU in 1986.

Philipson also serves as director of the Health Economics Program of the Becker Friedman Institute.