Meet Dr. Satyam SarmaDiastolic Heart Failure Specialist in Dallas

Satyam (Tom) Sarma, M.D., is a cardiologist by title, but he describes his work as integrated physiology – studying and treating the human body as a unified system.

Dr. Sarma draws on his experience in a variety of fields, including biomedical engineering, cardiology, and exercise physiology, to understand how the heart, lungs, muscles, and blood vessels work together.

A clinical scholar at UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dr. Sarma splits his time between patient care and research. Much of his work centers on understanding, diagnosing, and treating unexplained shortness of breath. In addition to caring for patients with heart failure and other serious illnesses, Dr. Sarma often works with athletes to examine and improve their performance.

“From the framework of integrated physiology, you can really address a variety of different patients, from the elite athlete to the person with heart failure who can't even walk across the room.”

Research Aligned with Patient Care

With his holistic focus on the human body, Dr. Sarma is often able to see things in a unique way.

“Many patients who come to see me have been told they have pulmonary hypertension, a disorder in which lung pressure is elevated,” Dr. Sarma says. “But often it turns out they actually have a particular type of heart failure.”

This type of heart failure, called HFpEF, or heart failure with preserved ejection fraction, creates an elevated pressure in the heart and lungs and can cause significant shortness of breath.

“There's no gold standard of diagnosis for HFpEF, so it can be very challenging for a lot of patients, who often have already seen other physicians but have been unable to get a conclusive diagnosis.”

The exact mechanisms that underlie both HFpEF and shortness of breath aren’t well understood, so Dr. Sarma’s research focuses on unpacking the enigmas of these disorders. One of his great satisfactions is how closely his clinical research aligns with his clinical practice.

“We see our research as a partnership with patients,” he says. “Ultimately we're here to help people, but at the same time patients can help us. We've learned so much from our patients, and our patients enjoy participating in research because it helps them understand their body and their disease better. It’s mutually beneficial.”