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Change, In a Heartbeat

American Heart Association welcomes new president, Ismael Nu?o, M.D.

By Leslie Linde
Published on LatinoLA: July 7, 2003


Change, In a Heartbeat


A boy dreams of becoming a surgeon--just like his father. Photos of the first heart transplant, published in 1967 by LIFE magazine, take hold of the boy?s imagination. ?From then on, there would be nothing else for me,? explains Ismael Nu?o, M.D. ?In high school, I wrote poems about the heart?everything for me was about the heart.?

Helping Latino patients, living in L.A. is a dream come true for Dr. Nu?o.

Nearly thirty years later, the cardiac surgeon at County-USC Medical Center, who also practices out of Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena, says, ?If I had to sit down and figure out a life for myself, I couldn?t have imagined anything as personally rewarding as what I do.?

What he would change, in a heartbeat, if he could, is the impact cardiovascular disease and diabetes have had on his family. ?You can?t divorce the two,? he explains. In June, Dr. Nu?o?s mother, Irene, lost a decades-long battle with diabetes. The disease and its complications, he says, tore apart her body but never her spirit.

?The last two years were very difficult for her,? says Dr. Nu?o. ?But she never lost hope. She always had a big smile for you?even during her last several months in ICU. She was a brave woman who accomplished a lot during her lifetime. Diabetes was never an obstacle for my mother.?

Years earlier, sudden cardiac arrest stole the life of Catharine Anne Nu?o, a UCLA student aspiring to become a social worker. ?She died in my arms,? says Dr. Nu?o. ?I?ve brought back thousands of patients with CPR, but I couldn?t save my own daughter.?

During his inaugural address as president of the American Heart Association?s Western States Affiliate, Dr. Nu?o urged a room of volunteers and staff to remember ?patients fighting for their lives and loved ones who died untimely deaths.? Ignite the passion in your hearts, he said, so that we may reduce heart disease, stroke and risk by 25 percent by 2010.

His priorities for the organization--all of which strike a personal chord for him as a Latino--will be diabetes, childhood obesity and program funding.

The year ahead, he said, will be dedicated to his daughter: ?She?s my sunshine and the fire in my heart.?


About Leslie Linde:
Leslie Linde is the Publications Director at the American Heart Association.




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