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Shelley Miyamoto

Distinguished Alumni Award for Achievement (2019)

Shelley Miyamoto

93BS, 98MD

Shelley Miyamoto is a rising star in pediatric cardiology. A nationally and internationally recognized authority on pediatric cardiac transplantation and cardiomyopathy, much of her groundbreaking work focuses on the failing heart of children born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a severe form of congenital heart disease. Miyamoto is currently conducting research on heart failure with two National Institutes of Health (NIH) Research Project (R01) grants; she has received continuous research funding since 2009. She is a popular invited speaker, grant reviewer for the NIH and American Heart Association, and a manuscript reviewer for several prominent peer-reviewed journals. Miyamoto is noted not only for her skills as a researcher and clinician but also as a highly commended teacher and mentor.

Miyamoto began her life as a Hawkeye in 1989 as an undergraduate majoring in exercise science and a leader on the UI women’s swimming team. After graduation, she worked at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Iowa City before attending the UI College of Medicine, where she met her husband, Vincent Ho, MD.

Miyamoto completed a medical residency in pediatrics at Brown University, where she served as chief resident. This was followed by fellowship training in pediatric cardiology with a focus on cardiac transplant and heart failure at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. Miyamoto impressed the Colorado faculty; when her fellowship ended they invited her to join their ranks.

Miyamoto was the inaugural recipient of the Jack Cooper Millisor Chair in Pediatric Heart Disease at Children’s Hospital Colorado to support her research in pediatric heart disease. She is one of the youngest faculty members to receive an endowed chair at the University of Colorado. Her work has been sentinel in demonstrating that, at a molecular level, heart failure in children and infants may not be mechanistically similar to that found in adults.

“Heart disease in a child can progress very rapidly from diagnosis to death, or the need for a transplant,” Miyamoto says. “You can’t shoehorn drugs for adults into treatment of children. Our research is proving the need to study treatment of heart failure in children, in particular, because adult treatments are not always effective for them.”

One of her nominators, Biagio “Bill” Pietra, MD, describes her as a triple threat: an exemplary cardiologist, scientist, and teacher.

“She is an outstanding person and educator,” Pietra says. “The most powerful demonstration of her role as an educator and mentor is the success her trainees have had.”

Miyamoto values her responsibilities as an educator, and she appreciates the role models she had at Iowa. She recalls Peter Densen, MD, former associate dean for student affairs and curriculum, as a particularly encouraging mentor with a selfless open-door policy for students. She credits pediatric cardiologist Diane Atkins, MD, and neonatologist Herman Hein, MD, for their excellence in demonstrating how to interact with patients and families. Today, Miyamoto recalls those experiences as she mentors and trains the next generation of physician-scientists to continue new advances in treatment for pediatric heart disease.