Arthur Moss, 1931-2018

Tributes paid to pioneering cardiac researcher

March 8, 2018
Arthur Moss

A cardiac researcher who pioneered many life-saving treatment options has died.

Arthur Moss was born in June 1931 in Westchester County, New York, and studied at Yale University (1949-53) before going on to Harvard Medical School (1953-57). He began an internship at Massachusetts General Hospital, intending to specialise in haematology. When he was called up to serve in the US Navy, however, his commanding officers mistakenly thought that he was a cardiologist, so he rapidly acquired the skills to teach flight surgeons electrocardiography. This led to a lifelong fascination with the heart’s electrical activity that defined his subsequent research.

In 1966, after completing his residency, Professor Moss joined the faculty at the University of Rochester Medical Center. He would remain there until his death, eventually as Bradford C. Berk distinguished professor in cardiology. After devoting the earlier part of his career to determining who was most at risk of sudden cardiac death, he become a leading expert on arrhythmias and discovered some highly effective treatment methods.

It was a particular patient in 1970 – a woman who kept passing out while bowling – who inspired the research project that Professor Moss found most rewarding. After diagnosing her with Long QT syndrome, a genetic condition that affects the heart’s electrical system, he both developed the first effective surgical treatment and created a pioneering rare disease registry for the condition.

“Not only was Arthur extraordinary in understanding the immediate problem, he was also visionary in that long before we knew how to analyse genes he started the registry and preserved blood samples that could be used in the future,” said Mark Taubman, chief executive of URMC. “The registry has become one of the most important repositories in the world, helping prevent thousands of untimely deaths from Long QT and enabling the in-depth investigation of how genetics influence a form of heart disease. The impact of his work is unparalleled.”

Equally significant were the clinical trials where Professor Moss demonstrated the value of implantable cardioverter defibrillators in reducing the risk of sudden death in patients who have already experienced a heart attack and, later, the value of cardiac resynchronisation therapy plus defibrillator in halting the progression of milder forms of heart disease.

Much admired for his ability to target his research on questions that yielded clear positive or negative answers, Professor Moss received the 2008 Glorney-Raisbeck Fellowship Award in Cardiovascular Diseases, the highest honour of the New York Academy of Medicine. He died of cancer on 14 February 2018 and is survived by his wife, Joy, three children, nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

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