Neal receives No Greater Legacy Award

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – William A. Neal, M.D., professor of pediatric cardiology at the West Virginia University School of Medicine, received the No Greater Legacy Hova Underwood Award in Charleston at the Fourth Annual Conference on Child Health and Development.

Granted by the West Virginia Healthy Kids and Family Coalition, the award recognizes those who have contributed to the quality of child health in West Virginia. Dr. Neal was recognized for his accomplishments in treating and preventing child obesity.

”I am honored to receive the award and recognition, but I feel strongly that the entire CARDIAC staff are really the ones who accomplish so much and deserve the recognition,” Neal said. “If I deserve credit, it is for selecting excellent staff and empowering them to achieve their potential.”

Neal is the founder and director of the CARDIAC – Coronary Artery Risk Detection in Appalachian Communities. He began the program 10 years ago and continues to travel across the state researching and treating children with heart disease in all 55 counties. 

Neal also cares for almost a dozen patients a day when visiting the Pediatric Lipid Clinics in Morgantown, Wheeling, Huntington, Beckley, Lewisburg and Princeton for conditions such as heart murmurs, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, chest pains or fainting spells.

“I love West Virginia, and I don’t mind all the driving,” Neal said.

The CARDIAC program, which began at WVU, gives medical students the opportunity to get out of the classroom and work in a hands-on environment. 

“In order to have stronger academic capabilities, students need to have strong research capabilities,” Neal said.

Other schools now affiliated with the program include Alderson-Broaddus College, Marshall University, Fairmont State University and the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine.

“The program is not formalized. It’s not a department. It’s a program for the state and supported by the state,” Neal said.

Since 1998, the CARDIAC program has screened more than 46, 000 fifth graders. 

According to Neal, the best way to fight obesity is by raising awareness, identifying individual risks and informing policy makers of the research findings.

“If you want a healthy lifestyle, you have to work at it,” Neal said.

The main reason for obesity is family lifestyle. How a family lives can determine if the child will become obese, Neal said. Exercise and a healthy diet are some things families can do to decrease obesity.

Genetics can be a big factor in obesity as well. A child is four times more likely to be obese if one parent is obese and 10 times more likely if both parents are obese.

Screenings include checking blood pressure, body mass index and cholesterol. More than half of the children screened are overweight or obese, 15 percent have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, and 22 percent are at risk for diabetes.

“CARDIAC needs to maintain its core function of school-based health risk surveillance, interventional strategies to address specific causes of unhealthy lifestyle, and research to assess the impact of our respective interventions,” Neal said.
Neal was recently named the inaugural recipient of the James H. Walker, M.D., Chair in Pediatric Cardiology at WVU.

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. Together with Neal, Walker established WVU’s pediatric cardiology program, which today performs 250 cardiothoracic procedures, 100 cardiac catheterizations and 3,000 ultrasound examinations annually.

Neal is a native of Huntington, W.Va.. He attended Wheeling Jesuit University, received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Xavier University and earned a medical degree from WVU in 1966. Neal was a resident at the Univeristy of Minnosota Hospitals from 1969 to 1974 and has been at WVU since.  Neal also served in the U.S. Navy during Vietnam as a flight surgeon.

For more information about the CARDIAC project visit http://www.cardiacwv.org/.



For more information:
Amy Johns, HSC News Service, 304-293-7087
EL: 12-10-08

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