Tony DeMaria, MD, MACC: More Than a Decade of Leading Cardiology’s Top Journal and the Journey to the Top | Cardiology Magazine
Get to Know Your Leaders | After 12 years as editor-in-chief of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC), Anthony N. DeMaria, MD, MACC, will be ending his tenure as head of one of the top peer-reviewed publications, and will be handing the reigns to Valentin Fuster, MD, PhD, MACC, who will start his five-year term in July 2014. But DeMaria’s road to leadership at JACC and within the ACC is a story in itself.
DeMaria grew up in Bayonne, NJ, but a few years after graduating from the New Jersey College of Medicine in 1968, he boarded a plane “on a lark” and took a chance on a life further west than he’d ever been — California — a place he still calls home after more than 40 years. DeMaria had received a call from a physician inviting him to join the newly created cardiology fellowship program at the University of California, Davis in Sacramento, and he knew it was an opportunity he couldn’t refuse.
The program was in such an infant stage that it was housed in a trailer. Luckily for DeMaria, the physician was Dean T. Mason, MD, MACC — a future president of the ACC and a true mentor.
During his fellowship interview, DeMaria was beyond impressed. “Dr. Mason was so enthusiastic and passionate that I said ‘yes’ without hesitation, and my whole life instantly changed,” he said. “I got in on the ground floor with a spectacular mentor who opened doors for me, and promoted and guided his trainees.” DeMaria claims this opportunity prevented him from being “lost in the shuffle of a hot-shot school” and was “the best decision of [his] life.”
During the first year of DeMaria’s fellowship, he was asked to lead a project to track the heart border on fluoroscopy with a radarkymogram. Unfortunately, the machine was not all it was cracked up to be, according to DeMaria. “It was a boondoggle,” said DeMaria. “It never amounted to a hill of beans.” It was then that he attended an ACC meeting where, in a small, largely unattended educational session, he learned of recording heart motion by ultrasound. The technique could track the inside of the heart, not just the outside border, and he knew the presenter was on to something.
After a little lobbying of Mason and a week-long training session at the University of Indiana under Harvey Feigenbaum, MD, FACC, DeMaria brought one of the earliest ultrasound devices of its kind to California. Once again, he was in on the ground floor. “That move changed my life once again,” said DeMaria. “And that year — 1972 — echocardiography exploded.”
A few years later, as a newly minted assistant professor of medicine, DeMaria was tapped by Mason to help him in his ACC presidential duties to run the Annual Scientific Sessions. At age 34, DeMaria became program chair of the ACC’s Annual Scientific Sessions. Less than a decade and a few committee lead terms later, DeMaria followed in his mentor’s footsteps and accepted ACC’s presidential nomination.
However, DeMaria did not fall off the grid after his presidential duties elapsed. Instead, he stepped up to lead ACC’s flagship publication, JACC, as editor-in-chief in July of 2002, following the term of ACC Past President William Parmley, MD, MACC.
JACC is typically the top-ranked member benefit of the ACC and DeMaria believes the journal’s clinical orientation is the chief reason for consistently landing at the top of the list. “We are fortunate that many people want to publish their articles in our journal, and therefore we get to choose from very high quality articles and excellent material,” he says. “We are most interested in publishing clinically important material and we don’t usually publish biology for the sake of publishing biology.”
During DeMaria’s decade-plus tenure, he’s overseen hundreds of issues and poured through more than 100 scientific papers each week, and has also helped to expand JACC to include three specialty journals: JACC: Cardiovascular Imaging, JACC: Cardiovascular Interventions, and most recently JACC: Heart Failure. The task, he said, was initially overwhelming and at the beginning he wondered if he would be up to the task of managing such a large body of work each week — while maintaining his desire to give each piece the attention it deserves. “To a certain extent, it’s like standing under Niagara Falls with a tiny pail trying to catch the water,” he says. But despite the sheer amount of work, DeMaria takes the “Golden Rule” approach to editorship — to treat each manuscript with the care and feedback with which he would want his own manuscript to be treated. “Each manuscript is precious,” he says. “You do not want to be flippant or casual with the articles — you must treat them with respect.”
As JACC editor-in-chief, DeMaria says he not only has “a sacred responsibility to the authors to make sure that their manuscripts receive a detailed, fair and constructive evaluation,” but he also has a sacred responsibility to the College. “The College entrusted to me with what I would consider the jewel of their member benefit — and maybe the greatest manifestation of ACC’s value of quality of care,” he said “JACC’s editor-in-chief has a responsibility to do the manuscripts justice.”
While it may seem like this is a prime time to step back and slow down now that his term and the flood of 100 or more articles a week are coming to a close, DeMaria says he is ready for the next challenge. “I don’t know what I will do next, but I have the faith that there will be lots of interesting things to do,” he said.
DeMaria says he is certainly open to other editorial activities, and with the extra time will now be able to spend more time on his research program at the University of California, San Diego. He is also a key player in San Diego’s successful “Be There” campaign which uses emotion, rather than facts and figures, to communicate the importance of controlling risk factors and the gravity of heart disease. After packing up and leaving Bayonne more than 40 years ago, DeMaria is sure he made the right decision, and enjoys sharing life in California with his wife, children and seven grandchildren.
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