Prior to his appointment as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs on 16 April, 2007, Dr. Casscells served as the John Edward Tyson Distinguished Professor of Medicine (Cardiology) and Public Health at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston.
He was also the Director of Clinical Research at the Texas Heart Institute, where his clinical practice and research programs, in collaboration with James T. Willerson, M.D., focused on prevention of heart attack and stroke using advanced diagnostic techniques to identify vulnerable patients early, so that treatment with lifestyle changes and medications decrease heart attack, stroke, and need for surgery. In collaboration with colleagues John Mendelsohn, M.D. and Juri Gelovani, M.D. at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, they established CABIR, the Center for Advanced Biomedical Imaging Research.
He has also been a leader in disaster medicine, and pandemic preparedness. He and his colleague Dr. Mohammad Madjid were the first to identify influenza as a trigger of heart attack.
A proponent of patient-Driven health care, he was an early advocate of public access defibrillation, telemedicine, and of electronic health records. He has also made scientific contributions to the use of decision analysis in clinical practice, semantic web technologies for public health surveillance (with Parsa Mirhaji, M.D.), cost-effectiveness of new technologies, ethics of physician involvement in capital punishment, and federal health reimbursement.
In addition to prior service on educational, scientific, and charitable boards such as the Prostate Cancer Foundation, Dr. Casscells was a director of Volcano Corporation, Lifeline Systems (now Philips) and Spectracell, Inc, and an advisor to GE Healthcare, Roche, Pfizer, Lilly, Claritas, RediClincs, and Glaxo.
A native of Wilmington, DE, he received the B.S. in biology (cum laude) from Yale in 1974, and the M.D. (magna cum laude) from Harvard Medical School in 1979. His residency in medicine was at the Beth Israel Hospital and Harvard Community Health Plan, and his cardiology fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital, with a Kaiser Fellowship in clinical epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health.
From 1985 to 1991, Dr. Casscells served in the Cardiology Branch at the National Institutes of Health, followed by a sabbatical year at Scripps Institutes of Medicine and Science in La Jolla, California working under Nobel Laureate Roger Guillemin, M.D., Ph.D.
Dr. Casscells joined the University of Texas at Houston in 1992. From 1994 to 2000 he served as the Levy Professor and Chief of Cardiology at UT-Houston Medical School and Memorial Hermann Hospital.
Dr. Casscells has served on the editorial boards of The Texas Heart Institute Journal, Health Leader, The Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, The Journal of Vascular Medicine and Biology, The American Journal of Cardiology, and as associate editor of Circulation.
In 2004, in collaboration with Richard Smalley, Ph.D. and Jodie L Conyers, Ph.D., Dr. Casscells established the Alliance for NanoHealth with Rice University, UT M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Baylor College of Medicine, Texas A&M, and the University of Houston.
Dr. Casscells served from 1992 to 2004 on the Board of Directors or Advisory Board of the American Heart Association’s Houston affiliate. He was President of the Houston Cardiology Society from 1995 to 1996. Dr. Casscells has also served on the boards of the Society of Vascular Medicine, the Association of Professors of Cardiology, and the University of Houston Law School’s Institute of Health Law and Policy. Since 1996 Dr. Casscells has been listed in Who’s Who in Medicine, in Science and Engineering,…in Education,…in America, in the World.
In 1997 Dr. Casscells was elected to the Association of University Cardiologists, and in 2000 to the American Clinical and Climatological Association. In January 2001 he was appointed to President Bush’s Healthcare Advisory Committee. In 2001 he received the first CIMIT award from Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital and MIT. In 2002 he was named a Hero of the Flood by the Memorial Hermann Hospital. In 2004 he received the American Telemedicine Association’s General Maxwell Thurman Award.
The founding chairman of Defense Of Houston, which won the 2002 Best Practice Award from the US Department of Health and Human Services, Dr. Casscells also led the US Army’s T5 program (Texas Training and Technology against Trauma and Terrorism). He and his colleagues Dr. Red Duke, Dr. Scott Lillibridge, and Dr. Parsa Mirhaji have assisted in major disasters from the Oklahoma City bombing and Tokyo sarin gas attack to Hurricane Katrina. In January 2005 he was one of the first doctors to join the tsunami relief effort in Phuket.
Dr. Casscells has served on numerous local, state, and national commissions on biosecurity. In 2004 he established the UT-Zogby poll on health issues. He was the medical honoree of the 2005 American Heart Association’s Heart Ball in Houston.
A Colonel in the US Army Reserve, Dr. Casscells was mobilized in 2005 and assisted in the Army’s response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, for which he was awarded the Army Achievement Medal. For guiding the Army’s avian influenza preparedness, he received the Meritorious Service Medal. In 2006 he was deployed to Iraq as the liaison from Multinational Force- Iraq to Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad. He received the Joint Service Commendation Medal, and was made an Honorary Member of the Iraqi Medical Regiment.