Heart technology center

DNP graduate leads cutting-edge heart technology center

Liz PerpetuaLiz Perpetua, M.N., D.N.P. ’08, gets to work with most exciting emerging heart technology in the country — before it even goes to market.
As the UW Medicine Director of Structural Heart Services and the Associate Director of the Center for Cardiovascular Emerging Therapies, Perpetua leads clinical care and research for new devices in heart disease. Her focus is minimally-invasive therapies for patients for whom traditional open heart surgery may be risky.
“Early heart disease runs in my family,” Perpetua said. “My father had a heart attack before he was 40. I’ve never forgotten what it felt like to be told we didn’t have real options.”

Led to nursing, and to research

At the UW School of Nursing, she received a copy of Cardiac Nursing, the iconic red textbook, edited by the nurse leaders that would later be invaluable mentors: Professors Sue Woods, Sandy Motzer and Elizabeth Bridges.

Combined with doctoral chair Professor Cynthia Dougherty, the UW School of Nursing fomented Perpetua’s training and passion for research and cardiovascular care.  For nearly a decade, Perpetua has been on the front lines as an investigator and clinician for the most game changing heart devices, making options available to replace and repair heart valves, close heart defects, and prevent stroke and heart failure – all through a small puncture in the femoral (leg) artery or vein.
“These therapies used to require a sternotomy (incision down the chest), heart lung machine, and a week in the hospital,” she said. “It is truly amazing to see someone through transcatheter valve replacement on Monday and help them go home on Tuesday.  It has been so exciting to carry the baton for these devices in clinical trial – and to safely steward them into clinical practice.”
With her leadership and their expert team, UW Medical Center is one of the top Structural Heart programs in the country. UW Medical Center is one of only a few sites in the world where new devices for valve disease are part of first-in-human trials.

UWMC also leads in the education and translation of devices post-FDA approval. One of these devices includes the MitraClip, which is the world’s first mitral valve repair therapy available without open heart surgery. This kind of device has offered new hope for patients ranging 20 to 90 years of age whose risks with open heart surgery are too high.

By January 2016, Perpetua’s team became just one of five centers in the U.S. that treated more than 100 patients with MitraClip.

Research, patient care and education

Perpetua’s role embodies the trifecta of research, patient care and education. She is a preceptor for graduate nursing students, serves a guest lecturer for the UW School of Nursing and is a faculty teaching associate in the School of Medicine with an appointment in the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery and the Division of Cardiology.

UW Medical Center is a well-oiled machine for multidisciplinary care, and each patient is cared for by a team that can consist of cardiothoracic surgeons, cardiologists, nurse practitioners, physicians, support nurses, and sometimes even pediatricians and oncologists. Perpetua thrives in this team-based atmosphere, where she is able to put her clinical training to work alongside her research chops.
“Nurses live in this space where clinical research and clinical practice meet,” she said. “We want to know the whole patient, not just their disease. It is about people, their goals, their families.
“Even when I was a kid, I wanted to help make options possible, to help people live longer and feel better,” she said. “I still wake up in the morning every day, motivated to do exactly that.”