Gordon A. Ewy, MD

  • Professor Emeritus of Medicine
  • Director Emeritus, UA Sarver Heart Center

Gordon A. Ewy, MD, is professor emeritus of medicine (cardiology) and director emeritus of the Sarver Heart Center at the University Of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson. He occupied the Gordon A. Ewy, M.D. Distinguished Endowed Chair in Cardiovascular Medicine from 2002 to 2013.

As a founding member of cardiology in 1969 and chief of the Section of Cardiology from 1982-2010, he has been integral to the development of clinical and research programs that have resulted in the Cardiovascular Services at the UA College of Medicine being a peer of the nation’s better academic institutions. As the previous director, the Cardiology Fellowship Program has graduated more than 100 fellows as trained cardiologists.

Heading the Sarver Heart Center since 1991, Dr. Ewy directed the fundraising for the Sarver Heart Center building, dedicated in 2000, and oversaw its design and construction. In addition, he has spearheaded fundraising efforts to establish and foster endowments for academic positions in the College of Medicine and to support the research of Sarver Heart Center members. The Sarver Heart Center is now home to 13 endowed chairs, two endowed fellowships, three endowed professorships, and two future endowed chairs set up by annuities. 

In the area of research, Dr. Ewy has made significant contributions to defibrillation and resuscitation of patients with cardiac arrest. He brought together experts from various departments to form the Sarver Heart Center Resuscitation Research Group. Their development of a new approach to cardiopulmonary resuscitation for primary cardiac arrest, called Cardiocerebral Resuscitation, has been shown to dramatically improve the survival rate in patients suffering witnessed out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. This new approach consists of a community, pre-hospital, and hospital components. The Community component begins at the scene with bystander-initiated chest compression only CPR (CO-CPR) and continues with a modified protocol used by paramedics (pre-hospital component) and most recently the hospital component where therapeutic hypothermia, early cardiac catheterization and other aspects for therapy of the post-cardiac arrest syndrome are available. The result has been doubling or tripling survival of patients with out-of-hospital cardiac arrest, in each area in which Cardiocerebral Resuscitation has been introduced.

For his early contributions to defibrillation and resuscitation Dr. Ewy was designated as an American Heart Association Honoree by the International Conference on Guidelines for Emergency Cardiac Care in 2001—a position referred to as a “CPR Giant” and held by only a few individuals in the world.

Dr. Ewy’s other research accomplishments include contributions in the areas of digoxin metabolism and the hemodynamic correlates of cardiovascular physical findings. Together with Frank I. Marcus, MD, he described the pharmacokinetics of digoxin in the elderly and in the obese, contributing to safer use of this cardiovascular drug.

His long interest in clinical cardiology and clinical research led him to clarify the normal jugular venous pulsations and to describe the hemodynamic significance of the Hepatojugular Reflux (HJR), a term he changed to the more accurate “Abdominal Jugular Test.”

His interest in cardiovascular physical examination and teaching led Dr. Ewy to collaborate with Michael S. Gordon, MD, PhD, of The University of Miami, to develop the teaching material and multimedia computer-assisted instructional material that accompanies the teaching mannequin “Harvey.”  The device was named after their mentor during their fellowship at Georgetown University, W. Proctor Harvey. Harvey (the cardiology patient simulator) has been validated as an educational tool in a multi-medical school study funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Dr. Ewy had a busy practice and consultative cardiology service at the University Hospital (now Banner- University Medical Center) since its opening in 1971. He has been listed in the Best Doctors in America database every year since the list was first published.

Dr. Ewy is dedicated to educating the public in the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease. He is convinced that lay individuals, medical students, residents, fellows and physicians in private practice need to keep up with the ever changing developments in cardiovascular medicine. To disseminate medical information among lay individuals, he established the Sarver Heart Center Newsletter, a free and regular publication, which includes “Heart News for You” a series explaining basic concepts and addressing new research in cardiovascular medicine.  Dr. Ewy has organized and participated in countless Sarver Heart Center public education programs throughout Arizona. He is active in training medical students, residents, and fellows and has directed several post-graduate education programs for private practice community. Those best known were the 13 year series of post-graduate programs on “Cardiovascular Emergencies,” held at the national American College of Cardiology headquarters in Washington, DC follow by another 13 year series of cardiology update courses, called “A Weekend at the Waldorf” held at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York. He was also one of the co-directors of the annual post-graduate series of “Tutorials in the Tetons” courses for practicing physicians. He directed the American College of Cardiology’s first international satellite teleconference, “Congestive Heart Failure – 2000.” For his frequent engagements in post-graduate in medical education, Dr. Ewy received the award, “Best Contributions in Continuing Medical Education” from The University of Arizona College of Medicine.

Dr. Ewy is the author or co-author of four books and over 274 publications listed in PubMed.

He obtained his bachelor's and medical degrees from The University of Kansas where he graduated Alpha Omega Alpha (medical student honor society). He completed his internship and first-year medical residency at the Georgetown University Division of the District of Columbia General Hospital, a 1,400-bed indigent hospital. He spent his second year of residency and his cardiology fellowship training at Georgetown University and was on the faculty of Georgetown University School of Medicine for four years before coming to the then new University of Arizona College of Medicine in 1969. Certified in both Internal Medicine and Cardiovascular Disease, Dr. Ewy is a past member of the Cardiovascular Disease Sub-specialty Board of the American Board of Internal Medicine. In this position, he was one of ten cardiologists to write the American Board of Internal Medicine subspecialty examination for board certification and re-certification in cardiovascular disease.

After college, Dr. Ewy served as an ensign and as a lieutenant junior grade on active duty aboard the U.S.S. Begor APD 127. He is fond of pointing out that 40 percent of the population of his home town are physicians—his older brother Gene and himself. The “town” in western Kansas called “Brenham” consisted of a wheat elevator managed by his father, a filling station that his mother ran and one house. His oldest brother, Dale, an electronics engineer, built the world’s first sophisticated defibrillator tester, which Dr. Ewy used in his early defibrillation research. Unfortunately, at that time, neither of them had the $500 required to patent the device.

Dr. Ewy says his most important accomplishment was convincing Priscilla Ruth Welbon, whom he met while in the U.S. Navy, to marry him. They met when she was 18 and he 21 years of age. After three years of letter writing, they were engaged via a trans-Pacific telephone call. Following his first year of medical school, she returned from overseas and they were married. He says his next most important accomplishment was keeping her from divorcing him once he became “married” to his career. Says Dr. Ewy: “She has been an invaluable partner in my life and in my work – she has edited almost every page that I published!” They have two living children, Gordon Stuart and Mark Allen. They have three grandchildren. Dr. Ewy retired June 30, 2013, after Priscilla told him, “At 80 years of age, it is time!” He continues to write and lecture to push for the adoption of Cardiocerebral Resuscitation for primary cardiac arrest world-wide, to travel, and spend more time with the grandchildren.

For more health information, please visit our Heart Health webpage.