David Thaler, MD, PhD, FAHA is an Associate Professor of Neurology at the Tufts University School of Medicine and has been the Director of the Comprehensive Stroke Center at Tufts Medical Center since 1998. After graduating from Vassar College, he went to Oxford University to obtain a Ph.D. (or D. Phil. as they say in Oxford, UK) in neuroscience. He decided to stay on in Oxford as the only American in the medical school, then did internships in both surgery and medicine. He returned to the US nine years, two degrees, a wife and a changed accent later. Following neurology training at the Longwood (Harvard) Neurology Training Program, he completed a fellowship in Critical Care Neurology at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital.
He has been interested in the connection between PFO and stroke since arriving at Tufts. What particularly drew his attention was the close collaboration between neurology and cardiology. Most stroke patients at Tufts undergo transesophageal echocardiography (TEE) to exclude otherwise hidden causes of stroke – PFO and aortic atherosclerosis.
He is on the national Steering Committee of the RESPECT Trial. With his colleague, David Kent, he is leading an international collaboration funded by the NIH to develop risk models for patients with stroke and PFO. The first model will help distinguish stroke patients with PFOs that are unrelated to their stroke (an “incidental PFO”) from stroke patients with PFOs that caused their stroke. The second model will predict who is likely to have a second stroke from those who are unlikely to have a recurrence. Together these models should allow patient selection for closure procedures to be based more on evidence than on best guesses.
He has lived in Boston since returning from the UK in 1993. He spends as much time as possible with his wife and two sons even though the boys accuse him of working too much and always talking about “holes in the heart, blah, blah, blah…”