Dr. C. Michael Gibson
M.S., M.A. (Hon.), M.D., FRCP, FAHA, FSCAI, FACC
What if your Apple Watch could help prevent a stroke? One in five strokes is the result of atrial fibrillation. This affects many people, although a good 30% of them don’t even know they have the condition. Enter Dr. C. Michael Gibson, CEO of the combined non-profit BAIM and PERFUSE research institutes at Harvard Medical School and co-chairman of a new Heartline trial co-led by both organizations. This trial is an all-virtual, app-based randomized medical trial, the world’s first on such a large scale, and the first trial involving a popular consumer product. The ultimate goal is to determine whether wearable tech like Apple Watch can lead to earlier detection of atrial fibrillation. At only 1% of the cost of a traditional trial, this trial is already fully funded currently recruiting, with the goal of enrolling up to 150,000 people in the U.S., and Dr. Gibson hopes it will be a way for people to improve their heart health in the future.
Dr. Gibson joined BAIM in 2017; however, this groundbreaking trial marks the most recent in a long line of important research for Dr. Gibson, who has spent decades leading large international trials of tens of thousands of patients. A practicing interventional cardiologist with more than three decades’ experience, he’s routinely named as one of Boston’s Top Doctors, and has been ranked likewise by U.S. News & World Report. He’s led 120 studies and phase 1-4 clinical trials in cardiology, all of which have been cited multiple times in literature. In fact, he was ranked as one of the world's most highly cited authors in all of science in the past decade by Thomson Reuters. The institutes he works with have led over 1,000 studies, published 5,500 manuscripts in the peer review literature, and have led 60 FDA submissions from their network of 7,000 sites worldwide.
Dr. Gibson entered medicine in 1986, and just two years into his career, founded an independent academic research organization, PERFUSE. “I felt like I had the right tools to answer the important questions early in my career,” he says. “Oftentimes, people think of research as working with test tubes and slides. This is clinical research that involves people, so it allows me to be a doctor and answer the important questions all at the same time.” Dr. Gibson’s commitment to improving the health and lives of people has driven his participation in many landmark discoveries from which thousands are benefitting, such as effective ways to prevent blood pooling in the heart muscle through using FDA-approved drugs to open smaller arteries, and inventing measures of coronary blood flow.
In addition to being a major player in the world of traditional medical literature, Dr. Gibson is also well-known online, with more than 440,000 followers on social media. He attributes his unexpected popularity to his careful curation of stories that appeal not only to medical professionals, but to consumers as well, especially during times of stress and crisis. He reported on updates and news during the Boston Marathon bombings, the Ebola outbreak, and, of course, during the COVID-19 pandemic. “I try to make my writing accessible to a broad group of people,” he says. But it’s not only medical subjects you’ll find on his social media, but his art, which has been featured in the L.A. Times. “This helps people connect with me personally. People want to know that there’s a human being on the other side of social media, and they like connecting in that way.” He’s also the learned mind behind WikiDoc.org and WikiPatient.org, open-source medical textbooks with thousands of subjects for medical professionals and lay people alike, expanding medical knowledge for all. He’s also founded Clinical Trial Results, a site dedicated to discussing the results of studies, and has frequently appeared on TV with Fox and NBC in Boston.
As for what Dr. Gibson loves most about his work, it’s hard to top saving a life. “When someone is critically ill, having a heart attack and may die, and I get the artery open, and they’re smiling and their family is smiling, there’s nothing better,” he says. And it’s the human aspect of his work that not only keeps him going, but gets people interested in his work, too. “No one cares how much you know, unless they know how much you care,” he says. “I use this quote all the time because it’s so true. By seeing that I, too, have children, a dog, that I, too, struggle with so many things that they do, people develop a sense of trust in me.”