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Sándor J. Kovács, Jr., PhD, MD, HS ’85

Sándor J. Kovács Jr., PhD, MD, professor of medicine and of cell biology and physiology at Washington University School of Medicine, is honored for his extensive commitment to training, clinical service and research in biomedical science.

An esteemed cardiologist who first trained as a theoretical physicist, Kovács has spent his medical career at Washington University applying mathematical models to better understand heart function in health and disease. In addition to his School of Medicine appointments, he is professor of biomedical engineering and professor of physics. He also serves as president of the Barnes-Jewish Hospital (BJH) Medical Staff Association and serves as a member of the BJH Board of Directors.

Kovács was the first to use kinematic modeling (based on fluid and tissue motion) to accurately predict how the heart actually accomplishes the filling process. In one groundbreaking study, he explained how the heart generates the third heart sound. Although considered pathologic in clinical medicine, his work revealed that physical laws require that all hearts generate the third heart sound. But, the third heart sound is usually below the threshold of hearing, except when heart function is pathologic. The sound is generated as a direct consequence of the heart being a mechanical suction pump as it aspirates blood into the lower chamber from the upper heart chamber and lungs.

His ongoing research into the integrated interactions of the heart’s four chambers has generated several patents, and demonstrated that the laws of physics govern aspects of human cardiovascular physiology. This has led to the solution of fundamental unsolved problems in cardiac physiology, resulting in improved understanding of disease processes. Although a theorist, he is the founder and director of the Cardiovascular Biophysics Laboratory. He was instrumental in the establishment of the Cardiac Magnetic Resonance Laboratory and development of biomedical engineering at Washington University. He also has served as the president of the Cardiovascular System Dynamics Society, an international society of cardiologists and physiologists, has been awarded the Sjöstrand Medal by Swedish Society of Clinical Physiology, and is a distinguished foreign member of the Hungarian Society of Cardiology. An active clinician with demonstrated passion for education, Kovács is known for fostering critical thinking and problem-solving skills among colleagues, fellows and physician-scientists who interact with him either in research or clinically.

In recognition of his major accomplishments in the fi eld of cardiovascular physiology and biophysics and in the education of future physicians and physician scientists throughout his tenure at Washington University, the Washington University Medical Center Alumni Association is pleased to present Dr. Kovács with its Resident/Fellow Alumni Achievement Award.

Published: 03/05/2017