Dr. Joseph Hill says it’s both the best of times and the worst of times for him to assume the role of editor-in-chief of Circulation, the American Heart Association’s principal scientific journal.
“There’s never been a more exciting time in cardiovascular medicine: The arsenal of tools we now have and the pathbreaking developments in science and clinical care are unprecedented,” he said.
“But at the same time, the challenges are similarly unprecedented and daunting. Heart disease is already the No. 1 killer in the West, and there’s going to be an explosion of heart disease in the developing world. It’s going to be an epidemic.”
Hill finds himself in a unique position to help confront those challenges.
Launched in 1950 and published weekly, the peer-reviewed Circulation is a leading authority on all matters of the heart, read by thousands of cardiovascular scientists, health care providers and others interested in cardiovascular medicine.
“It’s long been the flagship journal on an international scale, operating with the very highest of standards,” said Hill, who takes over the helm of Circulation after a 12-year run by Dr. Joseph Loscalzo. “In the practice and science of cardiovascular biology, it’s the go-to journal.”
At 58, the general cardiologist has been paying close attention to Circulation throughout his long, distinguished career.
Hill earned his medical and doctoral (pharmacology) degrees at Duke University and completed fellowships at the Institut Pasteur in Paris and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School. He joined the UT Southwestern Medical Center faculty in 2002 and now lives in Dallas. Today, he is chief of the center’s Division of Cardiology and director of the Harry S. Moss Heart Center.
As professor of Internal Medicine and Molecular Biology, he’s a three-time winner of a UT Southwestern Outstanding Teacher Award. As a researcher, he focuses on molecular biology and heart tissue regeneration.
When he’s not working, Hill loves to ski in New Mexico with his wife Beverly and their two sons or flex his muscles and his mind at his local health club. “The gym is my place of psychotherapy,” he said.
He’s likely to have even less free time now that he’s taken the reins of Circulation and helps with its six subspecialty journals: Circulation: Arrhythmia and Electrophysiology, Circulation: Cardiovascular Genetics, Circulation: Cardiovascular Imaging, Circulation: Cardiovascular Interventions, Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality & Outcomes, and Circulation: Heart Failure.
In addition to being responsible for the overall content and design of Circulation, Hill is also in charge of the elaborate peer-review process that begins with sorting through a mountain of research articles and ends with picking the roughly 6 percent of those articles that make it into to print.
“We’re especially interested in work that changes the way you think … the way you think about patients and the way you think about science,” he said.
“We want content that changes the direction cardiovascular research is headed. A big part of the job is to solicit content, from review articles on timely topics to shorter pieces to opinion pieces, in which we’re reaching out to thought leaders to get their considered perspectives.”
While the role of editor-in-chief comes with a mile-long list of responsibilities, Hill will have plenty of help from a small army of dedicated editors.
“We’ve recruited an extraordinary team,” he said. “We’ve formulated a global editorial model, one where we have a third of our editors in Dallas, a third in the U.S. outside of Dallas, and a third outside of the U.S. Cardiovascular disease is a global problem, so we’ve positioned Circulation as a global journal. We’re attacking the problem on a global scale.”
Hill will hold the position of Circulation’s editor-in-chief for five years, and at the end of the term, he’ll be eligible for a second five-year term. He’s optimistic the journal will be publishing major scientific breakthroughs throughout his tenure and for years to come.
“One area of particular promise is regenerative medicine and rebuilding heart [muscle]. Right now, if you lose a heart cell in a heart attack, it’s gone forever. But in the next 20 years, I think we’ll be able to reverse that,” he said.
“This is an incredibly exciting time … It’s a tremendous opportunity, privilege and honor to help shape and sculpt the future of cardiovascular medicine.”