MAY 30 seminar educates families with inherited heart rhythm disorders

By Lauren Hammit

Melvin Scheinman, MD

A special seminar at UCSF on Saturday, May 30, will focus on educating patients and families with inherited heart rhythm disorders about advancements in genetic research and treatment and the potential risks to these patients posed by certain medications and athletic activity. 

Inherited heart rhythm disorders, also known as arrhythmias, represent a serious health risk if undiagnosed.  Known to cause sudden cardiac death in seemingly healthy people, the cardiologists, geneticists and genetic counselors with the UCSF Comprehensive Genetic Arrhythmia Program are offering this public seminar and other services to help families understand and cope with the impact of inherited arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death.

“Many inherited heart rhythm disorders affect not only the patient but other family members as well, so it’s important to have a dedicated genetic counselor involved to review and explain the implications of genetic transmission,” said Melvin Scheinman, MD, cardiologist, professor of medicine and Walter H. Shorenstein Endowed Chair in Cardiology at UCSF. 

“Some arrhythmias can be rare and difficult to diagnose, and many are thought to be the result of an inherited characteristic or spontaneous genetic mutation. For that reason, our team is doing everything we can to study and better understand the genetic causes for these conditions, and to improve treatment,” Scheinman added.

The upcoming seminar is a collaboration between the UCSF Comprehensive Genetic Arrhythmia Program and the Cardiac Arrhythmias Research and Education Foundation, Inc. The Arrhythmia Program is a privately funded research effort led by Scheinman to study the unknown causes of inherited arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death. 

The first study associated with this effort, called the Genetics of Cardiac Arrhythmias study, aims to discover new genes that explain arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death. 

“Only 50-70 percent of cases are associated with currently known genes, so discovery of the genes we’re not yet familiar with is likely to lead to new methods of diagnosing and managing these disorders,” Scheinman said.

Inherited cardiac disorders include arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia/cardiomyopathy, Brugada syndrome, Long QT syndrome, Short QT syndrome, catecholamine-induced Polymorphic Ventricular Tachycardia and other unknown causes of sudden death.

The May 30 seminar will take place from Noon to 6 p.m., in Cole Hall, 513 Parnassus Avenue, on the UCSF campus.  The program is as follows:

  • Introduction—Mary Jo Gordon, executive director, Cardiac Arrhythmias Research and Education (C.A.R.E.) Foundation, Inc.
  • Advances in the Genetics of Heart Rhythm Problems—Melvin Scheinman, MD, principal investigator, chief of the Comprehensive Genetic Arrhythmia Program clinic, professor of medicine, UCSF
  • Which Medications Should be Avoided—Raymond Woosley, MD, PhD, president & CEO, Critical Path Institute, director, Center for Education & Research on Therapeutics, University of Arizona.
  • Which Sports Are Safe—David Cannom, MD, FACC, director of cardiology, Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles, clinical professor of medicine, UCLA
  • Special Problems in the Pediatric Age Group—Ronn Tanel, MD, director of Pediatric Arrhythmia Center, associate professor of pediatrics, UCSF
  • What You Should Know About Genetics—Colleen Brown, ScM, genetic counselor in the Program in Cardiovascular Genetics, Division of Medical Genetics, UCSF

In addition to hosting the educational seminar, the UCSF Comprehensive Genetic Arrhythmia Program maintains an informational website about the program and its related studies at

UCSF is a leading university that advances health worldwide by conducting advanced biomedical research, educating graduate students in the life sciences and health professions, and providing complex patient care.