Professor David Kiely Introduces the Donald Heath Research Programme in Pulmonary Hypertension

About Donald Heath

Donald Heath was a medical student and then junior doctor in Sheffield. During the early to mid 1950’s he became increasingly interested in a group of patients who became increasingly breathless termed ‘blue-bloaters’ and subsequently the pulmonary circulation. He and Whitaker published their histological description of “hypertensive pulmonary vascular disease” in Circulation in the mid-1950’s [1]. Donald Heath later moved on to Mayo Clinic in the US on a Rockefeller Travelling Fellowship. While at the Mayo Clinic working with Jesse Edwards, Heath developed and elaborated the work started in Sheffield and produced a classification and grading of hypertensive pulmonary vascular disease which is still referred to and universally accepted [2]. Through out his career at the University of Birmingham, Liverpool contributed greatly to many aspects of our understanding of the pathological changes and and drivers for pulmonary vascular disease including first description of Crotalaria-induced pulmonary hypertension [3]. Throughout his career he had a keen interest in high altitude biology and medicine which Heath pursued, together with David Williams and Peter Harris, for the rest of his life. This was gathered together in his book Man at high altitude: the pathophysiology of acclimatisation and adaptation, Edinburgh, Churchill Livingstone, second edition, 1981. That Thorax published a detailed account of his Festschrift as a supplement in 1994 [4] is testament to his substantial contribution.

  1. Heath, D. & Whitaker, W. Hypertensive Pulmonary Vascular Disease. Circulation 14, 323–343 (1956).
  2. Heath, D. & Edwards, J. E. The Pathology of Hypertensive Pulmonary Vascular Disease: A Description of Six Grades of Structural Changes in the Pulmonary Arteries with Special Reference to Congenital Cardiac Septal Defects. Circulation 18, 533–547 (1958).
  3. Heath, D. et al. A pulmonary hypertension-producing plant from Tanzania. Thorax 30, 399–404 (1975).
  4. Hasleton, P. Thorax 49, Supplement S1-S62 (1994).