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Dr. James Muller Selected as Lasell University Commencement Speaker

March 05, 2020

Dr. James E. Muller, an academic cardiologist and innovator who has worked to combat heart disease, eliminate the sexual abuse of children by priests, and minimize the specter of nuclear war will deliver the keynote address at Lasell University's 166th Commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 16, 2020. 

Below, Dr. Muller shares more about himself for our "18 Facts in 51 Seconds" series, a nod to Lasell's founding year. 

A longtime friend and neighbor of the University, Muller co-founded International Physicians for Prevention of Nuclear War which was awarded the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize. 

"Dr. Muller's achievements in cardiac healthcare and his commitment to social change make him an ideal candidate to address our students as they prepare to make their own marks on the world," said Lasell University President Michael B. Alexander. "In addition to addressing our graduates, Dr. Muller will spend time in the classroom with students and faculty to learn more about their interests and share his insights and experiences as a physician and a citizen of the world."

A graduate of Cathedral High School in Indianapolis, Indiana, the University of Notre Dame, the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, who completed his cardiology training at the Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Dr. Muller was the founding president of Voice of the Faithful, an international group of lay Catholics dedicated to supporting survivors of clergy sexual abuse and advocating structural change within the Catholic Church. His book, Keep the Faith, Change the Church, chronicles his experiences as the leader of Voice of the Faithful.

Dr. Muller studied the Russian language at Notre Dame and in 1967 took a six-month leave from Johns Hopkins to become the first US medical exchange student in the Soviet Union during the Cold War. In 1972, he worked with the office of then National Security Advisor to President Nixon, Henry Kissinger, to establish health cooperation with the Soviet Union. Through this program, Dr. Bernard Lown, Dr. Eric Chivian and Dr. Muller developed friendships with Dr. Eugene Chazov and other Soviet physicians that led to the formation of International Physicians for Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) in 1980. The initiative rapidly grew to a worldwide movement and in 1984, IPPNW received the UNESCO Peace Education Prize followed by the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985. 

In light of the spread of nuclear weapons to nine countries, Dr. Muller has resumed activities to lessen the risk of nuclear war. He entered into dialogue with the North Korean ambassador to the United Nations in 2017. He has been invited to visit Moscow in April 2020 to give lectures on cardiology and while there will continue his efforts to lower the risk of nuclear conflict.

Dr. Muller began his career at the Brigham Hospital in 1973, working for world-renowned cardiologist Dr. Eugene Braunwald. In the 1980s, Dr. Muller and colleagues studied the triggers of heart attacks which led to the concept of a "vulnerable coronary plaque" likely to cause heart attacks. Over 30,000 scientific manuscripts have now been written on the topic, resulting in improved diagnostic methods. For his work in cardiac research, patient care, and teaching, Dr. Muller was named a Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School in 2004.   

In 2007, Dr. Muller left Harvard Medical School to head Infraredx, Inc., a company he founded in 1998, to create a near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) coronary catheter, which was acquired by Nipro, Inc. in 2015. Positive results of clinical trials led to FDA approval in 2019 of the Infraredx/Nipro, Inc. device for the detection of plaques at high-risk of causing a coronary event. Today, global usage of the instrument continues to increase.

Dr. Muller was also a co-founder of SpectraWAVE, Inc., a company building a coronary catheter that combines NIRS and optical coherence tomography imaging. The new catheter is expected to improve stenting, diagnostics and treatment by providing an accurate picture of both the chemistry and structure of coronary plaque. Dr. Muller currently serves as Chief Medical Officer of SpectraWAVE and as a practicing clinical cardiologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

In addition to delivering the keynote address to Lasell graduates, Dr. Muller will receive an honorary doctorate of humane letters.