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Project ADAM NC seeks to prevent sudden cardiac arrest in children

Friday, December 6, 2019
Salim Idriss; Jordan Ezekian

In January 2019, the Duke Pediatric and Congenital Heart Center launched the first chapter of Project ADAM (Automated Defibrillators in Adam’s Memory), a national organization committed to preventing sudden cardiac arrest in children and teens through education and life-saving programs, in North Carolina.

Project ADAM NC, which is co-directed by Salim Idriss, MD, PhD, associate professor of pediatrics in the Division of Cardiology and executive co-director of the Duke Pediatric and Congenital Heart Center, and Jordan Ezekian, MD, MPH, a third-year fellow in the Division of Cardiology, joined 20 other affiliates in the quest to provide advocacy, education, preparedness and collaboration to prevent death from sudden cardiac arrest. The program focuses on ensuring that schools and communities are not only equipped with automated external defibrillators (AEDs) but also trained in prevention measures.

An AED is a portable electronic device that, when properly applied, can stabilize potentially life-threatening heart rhythms, including sudden cardiac arrest.

As a pediatric cardiologist, Idriss has always been interested in sudden cardiac death in the young (SCDY) and believes that Project ADAM is an important, life-saving resource that can help reduce the incidence of this condition one step at a time.

In recent months, the Duke Project ADAM team has formed a partnership with the leadership of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Wake County. The organization subsequently acquired AEDs for each of its seven locations, assembled cardiac emergency action teams, practiced drills, and completed all of the additional requirements for Project ADAM, making the youth centers among the few in the nation to be certified Project ADAM Heart Safe. 

In addition, the Duke team has partnered with the leadership of Hillsborough Elementary School in Orange County, which was recently recognized as the first school in North Carolina to meet Project ADAM Heart Safe criteria. It is expected that Hillsborough Elementary will be the first of many Project ADAM Heart Safe schools across the state in the near future.

Project ADAM began in 1999 after a series of sudden deaths among high school athletes in southeastern Wisconsin, including 17-year-old Adam Lemel. Many of these deaths appeared to be due to ventricular fibrillation, a condition in which the ventricles cannot pump blood into the body. Adam’s parents, Patty Lemel-Clanton and Joe Lemel, collaborated with the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin to create the program in Adam’s memory. 

Hundreds of children and teens experience sudden non-traumatic cardiac death each year in the U.S., and multiple studies, including the National Institutes of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Sudden Death in the Young (SDY) registry, have been designed to get more specific data about the incidence and scope of this problem.

Importantly, Idriss is the principal investigator of a recently awarded, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-funded national initiative through the Cardiac Safety Research Consortium (CSRC). The CSRC is a collaborative between the FDA, Duke, and more than 50 multinational medical corporations. The project entitled, CSRC Prevention of Sudden Cardiac Death in the Young: National Cardiac Screening Warehouse Pilot Study, is a groundbreaking, 18-month project that partners with public screening groups across the country to establish a national data warehouse containing electrocardiographic and other information obtained from individuals at public screenings.

Currently, public groups are screening thousands of children each year but there is a lack of coordination of effort. Idriss’ team will be central in facilitating collaboration and establishing a uniform screening dataset. The national data warehouse will serve as a continuous resource for studying cardiac screening efficacy and improving methods of SCDY prevention, as well as improving development of cardiac devices and pharmacologic therapies. According to Idriss, ongoing collaboration between the public, academia, and industry is crucial to the longstanding success of this effort to reduce sudden cardiac death in the young.


The establishment of Project ADAM NC was made possible by funding from a Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals (CMNH) Kids Care Grant and an Over the Edge for Duke Children's event.