Remembering Dr. David Dichek

This is unpublished

Remembering and celebrating Dr. David Dichek

A life committed to patients, science and mentorship.

The Division of Cardiology and the research community at the University of Washington suffered a huge loss with recent passing of long-time faculty and research leader Dr. David Dichek. David grew up in southern California and moved to the East Coast for college. David graduated from Princeton University with a degree in Romance Languages and Literatures.  He was fluent in French, which served him well on his yearly bike trips to France with his family, often following the course of the Tour de France.  David received his MD from UCLA and he completed internship and residency at Massachusetts General Hospital and clinical cardiology training at Johns Hopkins. Dr. Dichek first established his independent research program at the Molecular Hematology Branch of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. David was interested in techniques of gene transfer and how this emerging technology could improve outcomes in patients with vascular disease. 

In 1989, he wrote one of the first papers on gene transfer to vascular cells.

This paper published in Circulation was the subject of an editorial commentary suggesting that this report heralded a new era of cardiovascular therapies.  Over thirty years later, there are thousands of publications on cardiovascular gene therapy.

David returned to California in 1994 when he joined the faculty at UCSF/Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease. Dr. Dichek was recruited to the University of Washington in 2001 as the John L. Locke, Jr. Family Endowed Chair in Cardiovascular Research and Treatment. Dr. Dichek had a track record of research excellence and was actively involved in research until his death.

He is survived by his wife Helen, a pediatric endocrinologist at the University of Washington and son Daniel, an engineer who is currently working in New Zealand.

Dr. David Dichek for the AHA JournalFirst and foremost, David was an outstanding scientist with great integrity. He was excited by new discoveries and the possibility that his scientific discoveries could contribute to the improvement of human health. His major scientific contributions included gene therapy for treatment of atherosclerosis as well as the role of transforming growth factor beta and of plasminogen activators and inhibitors in vascular biology. Dr. Dichek’s scientific work resulted in more than 100 publications and >30 years of independent research funding from the National Institute of Health. He was recognized by his peers with numerous honors and awards. Most recently, he received the Special Recognition Award in Vascular Biology given by Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology Council of the American Heart Association in 2023. Dr. Dichek served on numerous NIH and AHA study sections and was on the editorial board of major cardiovascular journals including Circulation, Circulation Research and most recently the senior associate editor for Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology.

Beyond his own research contributions, David cared deeply about mentoring scientists at all levels including undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and junior faculty. Many of students and post-docs that he has mentored have gone on to become successful physicians or scientists. In 2022, he received the Undergraduate Research Mentor Award at the University of Washington. For more than two decades, he was the Director of NHLBI-supported T32 Program in the Division of Cardiology and was involved in mentoring numerous trainees, many who are faculty at leading academic institutions across the country. Of note, David truly went above and beyond in helping to mentor early career physician-scientists by critically evaluating research ideas, editing manuscripts and grants, and providing career advice. A large part of the success of the junior research faculty in the Division is due to David’s mentorship.

In addition to all the scientific achievements, Dr. Dichek was a caring cardiologist who was loved by his patients. He continued to see patients in his general cardiology clinic at UW Medical Center Montlake where he was recognized as one of Seattle’s Top Doctors by Seattle Magazine.

Dr. Dichek impacted many at University of Washington and beyond. His loss will leave a void that is difficult to fill. However, his legacy will be long lasting with his major scientific contributions and the lessons he taught us will carry on for many years.

Written by Dr. Farid Moussavi-Harami, Dr. Daniel Yang, and Dr. Francis Kim.