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WVU's Dr. Bill Neal is first Walker Chair in Pediatric Cardiology

on Mon, 11/10/2008 - 08:00

William A. Neal, M.D., professor of pediatric cardiology at the WVU School of Medicine, has been named the inaugural recipient of the James H. Walker, M.D., Chair in Pediatric Cardiology. The chair is funded through a gift from the estate of the late James H. Walker, M.D., a clinical professor of surgery at the WVU School of Medicine in Charleston from 1980 until his death in 2006. His gift also establishes a permanent endowment for support of the chair. The total bequest will be $6.378 million.

"The reason we have a top-notch pediatric cardiology program here at WVU Children's Hospital is in no small means due to the efforts of Dr. Walker," Neal said.

Walker recognized the growing needs of children in West Virginia for high quality pediatric cardiology services, Dr. Neal said. Together with Neal, Walker established WVU's program, which today performs 250 cardiothoracic procedures, 100 cardiac catheterizations and 3,000 ultrasound examinations annually.

A native of Huntington, Neal graduated from Xavier University in Cincinnati, then earned his medical degree at WVU, where he was the first recipient of the Edward J. Van Liere Award for medical student research. He continued his training at Milwaukee County General Hospital and studied pediatric cardiology at the University of Minnesota.

In 1998, Neal established the CARDIAC (Coronary Artery Risk Detection in Appalachian Communities) Project to address the high illness and death rates from cardiovascular disease in West Virginia. In 2007, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services gave the project a national Innovation in Prevention Award for its success in addressing chronic diseases and promoting healthier lifestyles.

Neal also staffs the Pediatric Lipid Clinic in Morgantown and outreach clinics in Beckley, Huntington, Lewisburg, Princeton and Wheeling. The outreach clinics began with Walker, he said.

"One of the things he did well was the establishment of outreach clinics, which increase the access to care. We need to take care of all of the children in West Virginia. Dr. Walker was a pioneer in establishing those clinics," Neal said.

In recommending Neal for the chair, Fred Butcher, Ph.D., interim vice president of health sciences, wrote, "Dr. Neal has distinguished himself over the last 30 years as a renown pediatric cardiologist leading the fight in West Virginia, rural America and beyond for children's health. His expertise and accomplishments provide a stellar rationale for his naming as the inaugural recipient of the James H. Walker, M.D., Chair in Pediatric Cardiology."

Neal said he is honored to be the first person to hold the chair named for Walker.

"I have the greatest respect for him. I worked with him, and he was a senior mentor to me," he said. "It's a distinct honor to get any chair, but in particular, to me, to get the Walker Chair."