James T. Willerson

James T. Willerson, M.D.

President and Medical Director
Texas Heart Institute


Dr. Willerson is President and Medical Director of the Texas Heart Institute (THI) at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital.  He is also director of Cardiology Research, co-director of the Cullen Cardiovascular Research Laboratories, and co-director of Vulnerable Plaque Research at THI. Dr. Willerson was appointed president-elect of THI in 2004 and became president and medical director in 2008.  He was President of The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston from 2001 to 2008 and was named the Alkek-Williams Distinguished Professor there at the same time.  He holds the Edward Randall III Chair in Internal Medicine and is a professor at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston.

Born in Lampasas, Dr. Willerson graduated Phi Beta Kappa from The University of Texas in Austin, where he was also a varsity swimmer, and Alpha Omega Alpha from Baylor College of Medicine.  He completed his medical and cardiology training as intern, resident, and clinical Fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda.  Dr. Willerson moved to Houston from The University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas in 1989, where he was Professor of Medicine and Chief of Cardiology, to serve as Chairman of Medicine for The University of Texas Health Science Center Medical School.  In 1992, Dr. Willerson created the Institute of Molecular Medicine for the Prevention of Human Diseases.  It is his strong conviction that from these discoveries will come the knowledge to predict, prevent, and cure cardiovascular disease.  He is a leader in stem cell research, and has taken Texas Heart Institute to the top of this research field.  Dr. Willerson also founded TexGen Research, a collaboration which brings together all of the institutions in the Texas Medical Center in genetic discovery.  He has published over 970 scientific papers in major peer-reviewed medical journal and has authored or edited 25 books.  Dr. Willerson has 14 patents and has created 3 biotech companies.  Among many awards, he is a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences; received the Distinguished Scientist, Distinguished Achievement, and James B. Herrick awards  of the American Heart Association; and the Distinguished Scientist award of the American College of Cardiology.  He was longest serving editor of Circulation, serving from 1993 to 2004, and he converted the journal from a monthly to a weekly publication.