Gérald Simonneau, MD

When a physician’s curriculum vitae totals 232 articles that he has either authored or coauthored, there is little doubt that he ranks high in the pantheon of pulmonary hypertension researchers. This is just the beginning of Dr Gérald Simonneau’s credentials as a world-class physician and investigator, one of the most widely published authors in the fields of pulmonary hypertension, pulmonary vascular diseases, and pneumology.

Dr Simonneau is Professor of Pneumology and Head, Department of Pulmonary Disease and Intensive Care, Hospital Antoine Beclere-Clamart-University Paris XI. With a deep interest in serving on professional groups responsible for the development of clinical practice guidelines, Dr Simonneau served in 2000 as President of the working group on pulmonary circulation of the European Society of Cardiology. In 2005 he extended his influence in the field when he became head of the Reference National Center for Pulmonary Hypertension.

The diversity and depth of his research interests are reflected in the list of his publications, including 16 in the New England Journal of Medicine and Lancet in the fields of pulmonary hypertension, pulmonary embolism, and pulmonary intensive care medicine. The first one in the New England Journal appeared more than 25 years ago (G Simonneau, et al. Inhibition of hypoxic pulmonary vasoconstriction by nifedipine. N Engl J Med 1981;304:1582-5) and 20 articles have been published within the last year in international journals. These include the report of the French Registry for Pulmonary Hypertension in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine on 700 patients with pulmonary artery hypertension referred to the French national network over a 1-year period.

Dr Simonneau earned his medical doctorate in respiratory medicine from the University Paris XII and served as a resident in respiratory and critical care medicine before assuming his academic positions. In 1998 he became Director of Unite Propre de Recherche de l’Enseignement Superieur (UPRES) on pulmonary vascular diseases.

His stature among colleagues in both Europe and the United States has earned him high praise from investigators who have worked closely with him and can attest not only to his superlative professional skills but to personal attributes that have helped to facilitate the development of many young physicians in the pulmonary hypertension research community. “Gerald is a uniquely French chef d’oeuvre: made up of equal parts of intellectual creativity and rigor, objectivity, wit, charm, and compassion—best served warm, and avoid overheating at all costs!” said Lewis Rubin, MD, Professor of Medicine and Director, Pulmonary Hypertension Program, University of California School of Medicine, San Diego. For more than 20 years he has been a pioneer and leader in the field, having contributed to our understanding of epidemiology, pathogenesis, and treatment of pulmonary hypertension. It is a privilege for me to call him a friend and colleague.”

Working closely with him, Marc Humbert, MD, PhD, Professor of Respiratory Medicine at South Paris University and Chairman of the French Network on Pulmonary Hypertension, summed up his experience this way: “I first met Gérald when I was a third-year medical student at South Paris University in the mid 1980s. At that time Gérald was extremely involved in intensive respiratory and pulmonary vascular medicine. At once, I was impressed by several of his qualities. Gérald is a real driving force in the department, extremely committed to his patients, and always present to support colleagues involved in clinical and more basic research. Any novel aspect of intensive and pulmonary vascular medicine has to be tested in the department in order to improve our patients’ understanding and management.”

“He is extremely open to his most junior colleagues, and we all had the feeling that if our proposals were of interest there would be no difficulty to be supported,” added Dr Humbert. “Third, his relationship with his patients and their relatives as well as with his colleagues is outstanding and extremely frank. He has always been very dedicated and fair and provides all his support to his patients. Last but not least, Gérald loves sport and competition. He was a great football player and has wide interest in all sports. This is very well reflected in the atmosphere he has created in the department, where we really feel like teammates, playing for the well-being of our patients and colleagues, and trying to push every aspect of our clinical and basic research, thanks to fruitful collaborations throughout the world. On a more personal note, Gérald is a great friend and has very strong personal links with his colleagues. He was extremely affected when our friend and colleague François Brenot suddenly died 10 years ago and since then always celebrates his memory, as we did last fall with the French patient association and François’ family in Paris.”