In Memoriam: Forrest Hood Adams, MD, MACC

A distinguished pioneer in pediatric cardiology and the oldest-surviving past ACC president, Forrest Hood Adams, MD, MACC, passed away at his California home on July 14, 2017. He was 97 years old.


From his research on fetal and neonatal cardiopulmonary function in health and disease to his implementation of the first heart catheterizations on newborns and infants, Adams’ life and career in medicine were full of many firsts and renowned accomplishments. Adams was the first to do research on the development, role and use of lung surfactant in health and disease, and the first to research exercise physiology in children with health and heart disease. Additionally, while a medical student in 1943, he was the first to describe a genetic disorder that is now known as Adams-Oliver Syndrome.

"Forrest Adams had an enormous impact on my own alma mater, the University of Minnesota as well as on the ACC," said ACC President Mary Norine Walsh, MD, FACC. "As we work on changes in ACC governance and our five-year Strategic Plan, we are reminded that many pivotal College initiatives were started by or contributed to by Dr Adams. His legacy is enduring."

Adams was born in 1919 in Minneapolis, MN, and attended both Johns Hopkins and the University of Minnesota, earning degrees specializing in pediatrics, infectious diseases and pediatric cardiology. Adams studied alongside C. Walton Lillehei, MD, PhD, MACC, who is well-known as the first to perform pediatric open-heart surgery, as well as John LaBree, MD, with whom he established the Variety Club Heart Hospital, the first hospital in the U.S. to focus solely on heart disease treatment and care. Adams went on to establish the pediatric cardiology program at the University of Minnesota, as well as the division of pediatric cardiology at the University of California Los Angeles, and the cardiopulmonary center at the Scripps Clinic in San Diego, CA.

Adams served as president of the ACC from 1971–1972, and joined the College as a member in 1963. In 1966, Adams served as the chair of the Annual Scientific Program, during which he increased attendance by coordinating paper presentations with the American Heart Association's (AHA) annual meeting to avoid duplicates, and by allowing more scientific papers to be presented. The following year, Adams became the chair of the ACC's Credentials Committee, where he served until 1970. As chair, he implemented criteria for ACC membership according to category (i.e. Fellow, Affiliate, etc.) and developed the beginnings of ACC's mission and goals. During his time as president, Adams introduced better coordination between the ACC and AHA, including regular meetings. He also aided in the development of ACC's first scientific journal, Cardiology, and became its first editor.


ACC's past presidents weighed in on Adams' passing and his impact on the field of cardiology. "Dr. Adams was a true pioneer in pediatric cardiology and congenital heart disease and his reference textbook, Heart Disease in Infants, Children and Adolescents, has become the gold standard in pediatric cardiology," said John Gordon Harold, MD, MACC. "He left an indelible mark on the ACC in his service as president and inspired generations of cardiovascular professionals in the team approach to the management of complex congenital heart disease." Alfred Bove, MD, PhD, MACC, wrote that Adams "was a great clinician who contributed much to our modern world of Cardiology." "Adams had a great life well and fully lived," said David R. Holmes, Jr, MD, MACC.

A descendant of U.S. presidents John Adams (1735-1826) and John Quincy Adams (1767-1848), who lived to the ages of 91 and 81, respectively, Adams was both proud of his ancestry and longevity. He served as a contributor to the Wellderly Study at Scripps Research Institute, which harvested his stem cells for genealogical study.

Adams is survived by his wife, Joan, and eight children. Read more about Adams in a feature article about his life and accomplishments, originally published in the December 2014 issue of Cardiology.

Clinical Topics: Congenital Heart Disease and Pediatric Cardiology, Congenital Heart Disease

Keywords: Heart Defects, Congenital, Heart Diseases, Pediatrics, Limb Deformities, Congenital, Cardiac Catheterization

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