Mary Ann Peberdy, M.D.

Where Care and Research Come Together

VCU’s ARCTIC Program One of the First in the Country to Induce Hypothermia in Cardiac Arrest Patients

Mary Ann “Mimi” Peberdy, M.D., brings patients back from the dead.

As director of the Advanced Resuscitation Cooling Therapeutics and Intensive Care post-cardiac arrest program, Peberdy deals extensively with people whose hearts have stopped beating. And, she said, when she and her team are able to resuscitate a person who minutes before lay lifeless in their living room, that’s where the greatest rewards of the job reside.

“When they get up, give me a hug and walk out of the hospital, that’s it for me,” Peberdy said.

That satisfaction stems not only from helping patients, Peberdy added, but from being part of an environment like Virginia Commonwealth University’s Department of Internal Medicine — where clinical care and research go hand-in-hand, and where the evolution and growth of the physician-scientist is constantly nurtured and supported.

“That’s what allows for something like the ARCTIC program,” Peberdy said. “It was developed as a clinical program to improve patient outcomes. But from that, we’ve been able to branch out and create a research platform that is unparalleled in the country.”

The VCU Medical Center began inducing hypothermia in cardiac arrest patients in 2004, making it one of the first hospitals in the country to do so. The practice soon proved so successful that it spawned the ARCTIC program in 2008.

Peberdy and her team, along with EMS providers, emergency department staff and physicians, and specialists throughout the medical center, work to begin lowering a patient’s body temperature to 33 degrees Celsius as soon as they encounter and resuscitate a cardiac arrest patient. Then, after they’ve kept the body at that temperature and monitored the patient for a period of 24 hours, they gradually rewarm the patient — increasing survival rates and improving neurological outcomes.

As the team hones the technique and continue to study patients, she added, they have been able to assemble research data and begin developing further trials that would allow for more individualization of the process and even stronger outcomes.

“It’s been quite wonderful to develop the ARCTIC program in this environment,” Peberdy said. “It’s just a remarkable example of how you can come in and provide great clinical care, but also add to the scientific knowledge of your community.”