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Leslie Cooper, MD

Professor of Medicine

Mayo Clinic College of Medicine; Rochester, MN 
Consultant in Cardiovascular Disease & Internal Medicine
Myocarditis Foundation, President 
Sarnoff Fellow Years: 1988-1989
Alumni Committee: 2006 - present
Alumni Committee, Vice Chair 



What impact did the Sarnoff Fellowship year have on your career?

The Sarnoff Foundation Fellowship year was my first exposure to bench research. This exposure gave me confidence in my ability to succeed in a research environment. Specifically, with the help of my sponsor and research mentor, I formulated a research plan, conducted the experiments, and presented the results at the annual meeting of the Sarnoff Society. The relationships that I established during my Sarnoff Fellowship year provided a network of colleagues and mentors who have formed a real fellowship community during the subsequent 20 years. I still help review other fellows' grants, share patient experiences, and assist in linking junior investigators with the best possible environments. From my Sarnoff experience of being mentored, I have become a better mentor for others.

Why should medical students consider the Sarnoff Fellowship apart from other programs?

The Sarnoff Fellowship can be a lifelong experience. It is not just one year in a lab. It is a whole community of motivated, bright people, who enjoy helping each other succeed in a shared effort of biomedical discovery. This program attracts people who are alike in the sense that they like to give to others. The Sarnoff Foundation seeks to not only pick good scientists, but caring people.

What are your professional aspirations?

My long term goal is to contribute to the understanding and treatment of Myocarditis and Giant Cell Myocarditis: forms of heart inflammation. This goal came out of a clinical experience I had as a medical resident when treating a 28 year old woman for heart failure. My current work involves novel diagnostic blood tests to distinguish the different forms of Myocarditis.

What is your greatest professional accomplishment?

I have had the pleasure and privilege of working on the diagnostic criteria and treatment for one of the most severe forms of heart disease, giant cell myocarditis. Through that collaborative work with many excellent investigators, we developed the current treatment for giant cell myocarditis and guided international consensus recommendations for the use of diagnostic heart biopsy in cardiovascular disease. The other area that seems to be succeeding is the Myocarditis Foundation, a not for profit corporation dedicated to education and research on myocarditis. The Myocarditis Foundation gives an annual post doctoral fellowship grant for a junior investigator to study myocarditis. More information can be found at

What is your most memorable Sarnoff moment?

The experience that I remember vividly is the first time I met Dr. Stanley Sarnoff in 1988. He had a firm and welcoming handshake and warm smile. To be welcomed into his home and receive his confidence was a sentinal event in my professional career. This whole experience provided a high degree of motivation to do well with the time I was given. I think the Sarnoff Foundation, like it's founder, never lost sight of the fundamental importance of personal relationships in the development of skilled scientists.

What are your hobbies?

I enjoy traveling and study the culture of each country I visit. I make a point of taking public transportation, rather than a cab, to experience a little of the local daily routines. After a talk in Kyoto this year, I slept at and participated in the morning rituals at a Shingon Buddhist monastery (at Koyasan). I also run daily, and enjoy sea kayaking and hiking with my family. I spend a lot of my time away from work with my wife, Jane, and our two boys Alex and George.

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