AS A world-leading heart surgeon, internationally reputed scientist and medical director of the British Heart Foundation (BHF), Professor Sir Nilesh Samani has been at the forefront of the fight against heart disease for well over 30 years.
When this Kenyan-born, Leicester-based physician began his medical training in the 1970s, just a third of people survived heart attacks. Nowadays the survival rate is more than seven out of 10 and he has played no small part in the improvement.
Thanks to the introduction of genetic testing – which Sir Nilesh pioneered – as well as angioplasty, statins and new surgical techniques, treatments for heart disease have been transformed. “Our ability to treat heart and circulatory disease has advanced enormously and I’ve had the privilege to live through this,”
he says. “I think there have been more advances in the treatment of heart and circulatory disease in the last 20 or 30 years than almost any other area of medicine – maybe only cancer comes close.”
For most people, doing any one of Sir Nilesh’s current jobs might seem like a daunting professional responsibility. He seems to take it all in his stride. His role with the BHF – a position he took up in 2016 – makes him one of the world’s most significant commissioners of cardiovascular research, responsible for funding more than half of all research into heart disease in the UK with an annual budget of over £100 million. At the same time, he is the BHF’s public voice and therefore one of the country’s leading public health spokesmen.
In addition, this indefatigable 63-year-old continues in his roles of consultant cardiologist at Glenfield Hospital, Leicester, while also heading a world-leading medical research team at the city’s university. There are no two ways about it: it’s an extraordinarily busy life.