Chronic Diseases


School of Medicine researchers are working every day to alleviate the sometimes devastating effects of the most common chronic diseases. Heart disease, pulmonary fibrosis, asthma are just some of the research areas of focus.

From individuals to populations, prevention to treatment and outcomes research, the School’s researchers are advancing the health of the community, improving patients’ quality of life and providing insight into the best practices for health care delivery.

National and international experts, SOM faculty members are leading the way in many areas of chronic disease research including heart disease, pulmonary disease, and women and children’s health

Heart Disease Research

About 600,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year, making it one in every four deaths (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). It is a common topic of discussion as the rate of obesity continues to rise and amount of physical activity has decreased among the population in the country.

Featured Researchers

  • M. Javed Ashraf, M.D., M.R.C.P, M.P.H., F.A.C.C., F.S.C.A.I., is an interventional cardiologist whose research focuses on PVD and peripheral vascular intervention and atherosclerosis, obesity and ethnic variations.
  • David J. Cohen, M.D., M.Sc., the medical director of the Health Economics and Technology Assessment (HETA) group of Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute, is addressing cost-effectiveness in treatment of cardiovascular disease and improved, long-term quality of life for patients with heart disease.
  • John A. Spertus, M.D., M.P.H., F.A.C.C., Lauer/Missouri Endowed Chair and clinical director of outcomes research at Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute, focuses on methods for assessing patients’ health outcomes, measuring health care quality, and the use of information technology to guide medical decision-making.
  • Lakshmi Venkitachalam, Ph.D., MPH, is interested in health disparities, the use of alternative care models such as the patient-centered medical home and the chronic care model, and enhancing the translation of evidence-based best practices to meet the health and wellness needs of underserved and vulnerable.


Pulmonary Disease

 At the School of Medicine researchers primarily focus on two pulmonary diseases: asthma and pulmonary fibrosis. More than 82,000 adults and 31,000 children younger than age 18 in the KC Metro area are currently living with asthma (Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services). While the specific cause of asthma is unknown, its “triggers” and treatment are often the subject of research studies.

It is estimated that up to 200,000 Americans have pulmonary fibrosis, with 48,000 new cases diagnosed each year, and the disease is responsible for more than 40,000 deaths in the U.S. each year (Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation).

The 2012 establishment of the Geldmacher Pulmonary Fibrosis Research Program allows researchers to collect and evaluate biological samples and physiologic measures from patients with pulmonary fibrosis.

Featured Researchers

  • Gary A. Salzman M.D., F.C.C.P., in partnership with Truman Medical Center-Hospital Hill and Children’s Mercy Hospital, established the UMKC Asthma Clinical Research Center in 1999 with a grant from the American Lung Association. With increased funding over the years, UMKC has become a site for the American Lung Association-Asthma Clinical Research Centers, where researchers address important questions about the disease.