Patricio López Jaramillo, a ‘big league’ investigator

What motivated you to define your research topic, on which you have been working for 40 years?

When I was an intern doctor at the Isidro Ayora Maternity Hospital in Quito, I received many young pregnant women who arrived in an emergency with very high blood pressure, swollen feet, a high percentage had seizures and mortality caused by preeclampsia-eclampsia or pregnancy-induced hypertension. it was very high, both from the fetus and from the mother. This situation impressed me a lot.

When I did my doctoral studies in Brazil, I met a professor who talked about the relationship between the consumption of foods rich in calcium, such as milk and its derivatives, and the risk of preeclampsia.

Back in Ecuador, we obtained financing and started a line of clinical research that allowed us to demonstrate that Ecuadorian women consumed very low amounts of calcium and that supplementing pregnant women with calcium salts significantly reduced hypertensive disease, especially in adolescents.

From the laboratory directed by Salvador Moncada, in London, where prostacyclin and nitric oxide were described, essential substances for maintaining blood pressure levels and which received the Nobel Prize for Medicine at the time, we show that ionic calcium is essential for the synthesis in the vascular endothelium of these two substances and that this is the mechanism by which calcium supplementation in pregnant women reduces the incidence of preeclampsia and has a role in hypertension in general terms.

Why did you develop your role as a researcher in Colombia?

During the government of Jamil Mahuad in Ecuador that began in 1998, one of the economic measures was to freeze dollar accounts. With the freezing of funds, we had to suspend the research activities of the Mineral Metabolism Unit of the Faculty of Medicine of the Central University of Ecuador, so I personally had two options: provide my health services as an endocrinologist or move to another place. to continue developing research.

I applied my resume for a position at Harvard University and at the same time they offered me to come to Bucaramanga as Scientific Director of the Colombian Institute of Biomedical Research. I soon realized that the matter was going to work very well here, since there was a legitimate interest from the universities of Santander and from two important hospitals in the city to promote the generation of new knowledge in health. After 23 years I can say that I made the best decision of my life.

What internationally renowned pairs have been decisive in this trajectory?

When I was 15 years old, the biology teacher told us about the work that the illustrious endocrinologist Rodrigo Fierro-Benítez was doing with iodine supplementation to prevent the frequent disorders of cretinism and endemic goiter. That has been the course that marked my scientific life. Currently I am lucky to have Master Fierro-Benítez as my friend, after having been his student.

I must also mention the dean of the Faculty of Medicine at the time, Dr. Rodrigo Yépez, who gave me the facilities to do my specialization, master’s and doctorate studies at the University of São Paulo. Precisely in Brazil I worked with Sergio Ferreira, considered the most important Latin American in the area of ​​hypertension.

Another of my great teachers is Salvador Moncada, he welcomed me in London, taught me to think big and the concepts of basic research that have been fundamental for my training as a clinician and public health trainee.

In specific terms, what has been the contribution of your research work to the communities?

With the Hope 3 and Hope 4 studies, we were able to establish that a standardized treatment, in which all hypertensive patients receive a similar treatment provided at home free of charge by nursing assistants, who carry out follow-up without the need for the patient to mobilize the health center, improves by more than double the adequate control of arterial hypertension and decreases cardiovascular death and heart attacks and strokes by 40%.

With this model implemented in Bucaramanga, the patient receives all care at home, avoids the expense of going to the health center and follows a standardized treatment of proven efficacy and safety. In this way, we achieved a control of 68% of hypertensive patients, while in the municipalities that followed the usual treatment scheme of the current health system, it barely reached 36%.

You recently received the Alberto Zanchetti award, what does it mean for you and for the Colombian medical society?

It has a lot of academic significance for the Latin American medical profession, but also a lot of personal emotional significance. Alberto Zanchetti is one of the fathers of the treatment of hypertension and one of the most important scientists that the world has had in this field.

During my presidency of the Latin American Society of Hypertension (LASH) we strengthened our relationship as colleagues interested in the subject of hypertension control and we carried out many joint works, Professor Zanchetti finding the space to carry out his teachings in this region.

The Alberto Zanchetti Life Achievement Award is a recognition of my 40 years of scientific career, beginning with the calcium supplied to hypertensive pregnant women to the polypill and community-based strategies for the management of hypertension.

experience and recognition

– Professor at the Central University of Ecuador for 25 years, before arriving in Colombia; he has also been a teacher at the UIS.

– Has developed clinical research in the cardiovascular area at FCV and at the Clínica Foscal.

In 2005 he joined the University of Santander, UDES. In 2011 the Faculty of Health created the Masira Institute and he was appointed scientific director. This year he was appointed as general rector of the UDES.

– Recognitions: The European Society of Hypertension selected him as an Honorary member (2018), which is the highest recognition. Only 14 people in the world have received this distinction and he is the only Latin American to obtain it.

Award from the Inter-American Society of Cardiology as an Outstanding Researcher in the cardiovascular area (2019).

The Colombian Association for the Advancement of Science awarded him the Scientist of the Year award, and the Colombian Association of Endocrinology, the distinction as Best Senior Researcher.

The UDES awarded him the Rafael Serrano award for being the most productive professor in science and technology.

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Patricio López Jaramillo, a ‘big league’ investigator