Research News Release

First Colton Scholar to develop software that uses machine learning to analyze electrical activity of the heart

Research possible due to a generous $1 million donation in honor of internationally known cardiovascular disease expert

Jan. 2, 2020

Christopher Beal, Colton Scholar

Through a generous $1 million donation to Aurora Health Care Foundation, Aurora Research Institute’s first Colton Scholar in Cardiology Research has begun developing software that aims to predict serious cardiac events in patients with a rare heart condition.

The research institute recently selected Christopher Beal as its first Colton Scholar. The Colton Scholar in Cardiology Research in Honor of A. Jamil Tajik, MD, fund was created with the intention of providing a researcher the opportunity to advance understanding of cardiovascular disease under the mentorship of A. Jamil Tajik, MD, president emeritus of Aurora Cardiovascular Services and an internationally known cardiovascular disease expert.

Since being selected for the position, Beal has begun developing software that aims to predict serious cardiac events based on electrical activity of the heart in patients with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). His advisors on this project include Dr. Tajik, Arshad Jahangir, MD, and M. Fuad Jan, MD.

“The software will use machine learning methods to recognize patterns in electrocardiograms,” Beal said. “The software will be designed specifically to aid the work of cardiologists, providing another tool to help them better identify high-risk patients and quickly determine the right course of treatment.”

Beal is completing his doctorate in computational sciences from Marquette University and had worked as a research associate for the research institute prior to being named Colton Scholar.

“We are deeply grateful for the Colton family’s generous gift, and I am confident Mr. Beal will be a great asset to our research team,” Dr. Tajik said.

Dr. Tajik joined Aurora Health Care in 2010 and has since established five centers at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center in Milwaukee: hypertrophic and inherited cardiomyopathies, adult congenital heart disease, Marfan syndrome and aortopathies, complex valvular heart disease, and pericardial diseases.

“As a researcher familiar with machine learning, artificial intelligence and high-performance computing, Christopher will play a key complementary role working alongside clinicians and investigators on Dr. Tajik’s cardiovascular research team,” said Kelly Piacsek, PhD, vice president of research for Aurora Research Institute, part of Advocate Aurora Health.

The research institute continues to be a leader in cardiovascular research, including preclinical studies, clinical trials and clinical outcomes research. The institute conducted more than 230 total cardiovascular research projects in 2019.

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Aurora Health Care is a not-for-profit Wisconsin-area health care provider and a national leader in efforts to improve health care quality. Aurora offers services at sites in more than 30 counties throughout eastern Wisconsin and northern Illinois. Aurora is Wisconsin's most comprehensive health care provider and the state's largest private employer. Aurora serves more than 1.2 million patients every year via a comprehensive network of facilities, services and providers, including 15 hospitals, more than 150 clinics, more than 70 pharmacies and more than 33,000 team members. As evidenced by more than 300 active clinical trials, Aurora is dedicated to delivering innovations to provide the best possible care today, and to define the best care for tomorrow. Get helpful health and wellness information through the Aurora blog, our Facebook page, as well as our Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest accounts. Aurora is part of Advocate Aurora Health, one of the 10 largest not-for-profit, integrated health systems in the United States. We help people live well.

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Aurora Research Institute is a not-for-profit, limited liability company of Aurora Health Care. Aurora has emerged as a national destination for patient-centered bench, translational and clinical research, and Aurora Research Institute unifies the innovative research efforts throughout the health system. Aurora researchers focus on rapidly translating new discoveries from the scientist’s bench to the patient’s bedside and into the community we serve to improve options and outcomes that change not only the lives of individuals, but transform the health of populations.

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