Arnold and JoAnn Johnson Support Innovative Cardiovascular Research

Arnold and JoAnn Johnson Support Innovative Cardiovascular Research
Dr. Eric Fenstad, Baxter Cardiologist, to Lead Innovative Research for Pulmonary Hypertension

MINNEAPOLIS, August 3, 2017 – The Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation® (MHIF) is announcing today its intention to pursue innovative research for pulmonary hypertension (PH), with a charitable gift from Brainerd area community leaders, Arnie and JoAnn Johnson. Eric Fenstad, MD, MSc, FACC, of the Minneapolis Heart Institute® Baxter Clinic identified the need for the research and will lead the project.

With the commitment of a significant donation from the Johnsons, the research will be the first to focus on phenotypic nuances, or genetic markers in the blood, in patients with pulmonary hypertension. In addition to their original donation, the Johnsons have set up an additional challenge grant inviting other community members to support the research with donations up to $25,000.

“Patients with pulmonary hypertension carry in their bloodstream some answers to finding more advanced treatments and possibly even a cure someday for this disease,” said Dr. Fenstad. “Even though pulmonary hypertension has been diagnosed for a long time, the reality is we know very little about this complex disease. Our study is designed to gather some genetic information from at least 100 patients with PH that can help us further understand the disease and how to better treat it.”

“Both Arnie and I want to help launch this important research study of local patients,” said JoAnn Johnson. “We are so fortunate to have Dr. Fenstad in the Brainerd Lakes Area. With his expertise in pulmonary hypertension, we believe he will help many patients and physicians to have better treatment options. We are proud to be supporting this study.”

The funding needed for the pulmonary hypertension study is only possible with philanthropic support from the Johnsons and others who can help meet the challenge portion of their gift. Additional donations will be matched by the Johnsons, dollar for dollar, up to $25,000.

Physicians like Dr. Fenstad, who are passionate about their work often, develop critical clinical questions best answered through research. During his career, Dr. Fenstad has authored the largest study of U.S. patients with PH and pericardial effusions and detailing the safety of echo-guided pericardiocentesis. He has published 15 peer-reviewed manuscripts, 3 book chapters and 33 abstracts and is very passionate about ongoing efforts to understand PH.

Pulmonary Hypertension is elevated blood pressure within the blood vessels located in the lungs and coming from the right heart and can be very difficult to diagnose. Symptoms can be non-specific and include shortness of breath, light-headedness, passing out, fullness in stomach or abdomen, and swelling in the lower extremities. Risk factors include some connective tissue conditions, lung disease, sleep apnea, chronic blood clotting conditions, other scarring lung diseases, liver disease, left-sided heart failure or valve conditions, some congenital heart conditions as well as genetic factors. Pulmonary hypertension is grouped into five classes of the disease. For more information, watch Dr. Fenstad’s video online here.

The study will lead to improvements in identifying patients living with pulmonary hypertension and gain insights on how they may be able to improve their quality of life. The study will begin in September and participants will be from the Brainerd Lakes Area. For more information about supporting this research, please contact Nancy Meyer Wilson at or more information about MHIF, please visit

To view the story in local Brainerd press, click here.


The Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation (MHIF) strives to create a world without heart and vascular disease. To achieve this bold vision, it is dedicated to improving the cardiovascular health of individuals and communities through innovative research and education.

  • Scientific Innovation and Research — MHIF is a recognized research leader in cardiovascular medicine and population health initiatives. Each year MHIF leads more than 175 active research projects and publishes more than 175 peer-reviewed abstracts. Cardiologists, hospitals and communities around the world adopt MHIF protocols to save lives, improve care and create healthier living opportunities.
  • Education and Outreach — MHIF provides more than 10,000 hours of education each year putting its research into practice to improve outcomes and leads cutting-edge, transformative population health research to connect, engage, inform and empower individuals and communities to improve their health.

The Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation’s mission is funded by generous donors and sponsors and advances the research initiatives of the cardiologists and vascular surgeons of Minneapolis Heart Institute®. MHI physicians provide care for patients at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis and at 38 community sites across Minnesota and western Wisconsin.

About Minneapolis Heart Institute®

Part of Allina Health, the  Minneapolis Heart Institute® is recognized internationally as one of the world’s leading providers of heart and vascular care. This state-of-the-art facility combines the finest in personalized patient care with sophisticated technology in a unique, family-oriented environment. The Institute’s programs address the full range of heart and vascular health needs: prevention, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation.

For more information contact:
Nancy Meyer Wilson