Richard D. Lueker, M.D. FACC, FACP
Dr. Richard Lueker has been a practicing cardiologist in Albuquerque since 1970. An Arizona native, he received his BS at Northern Arizona University, and his medical education at the University of Colorado. After two years of participating in a private practice in Arizona, he completed two years of medical residency at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Lueker then worked for two years in Bangkok, Thailand at the Bangkok Christian Hospital. He subsequently returned to the University of Colorado School of Medicine where he spent one year as chief medical resident; he completed a two-year cardiology fellowship at the university as well. While at the University of Colorado, Dr. Lueker was actively engaged in cardiovascular research trials, particularly involving congenital heart abnormalities. His studies resulted in many presentations and publications. From Colorado, he was recruited to the University of New Mexico School of Medicine where he became an Associate Professor in the Cardiology Division.
From 1972 to 1999, Dr. Lueker was in private practice at Southwest Cardiology. However, after a personal medical event involving his son, which Dr. Lueker describes as miraculous, he began searching for a special contribution he could make to his community. This was in the early 1970’s and his inspiration came from a Time magazine article in which he read about a man who had participated in a cardiac rehabilitation program in Cleveland and was now running one mile a day one year after a serious cardiac event. There was not yet a significant body of literature supporting the use of exercise as a means of recovery from a cardiac event, but Dr. Lueker believed strongly in the concept, and he decided to create a cardiac rehabilitation program in Albuquerque.
In December 1973, with exercise physiologist Dr. Hemming Atterbom, and physical education professor Dr. John Gustafson, he started the New Heart Cardiac Rehabilitation and Prevention Program. In the early days, the program was conducted in space rented at Jefferson Junior High School. Participants would walk around the gym and run around the track. In winter, they would string lights along the fence so that patients could run in the parking lot.
In the 1990’s, in conjunction with Presbyterian Hospital of Albuquerque, Dr. Lueker established the 50,000 square foot New Heart Healthplex. He was instrumental in all phases of development and became the medical director of the completed facility. In the spring of 2000, the New Heart program moved to a new location where it continued until 2005. At that time, a generous gift from local businessman Blake Chanslor made possible the construction of a new freestanding center near downtown Albuquerque. For almost 40 years, New Heart has served thousands of patients with its cardiac rehabilitation and prevention programs.
Although New Heart is his crowning achievement, Dr. Lueker has been responsible for a number of additional programs that have involved educating providers and treating patients in remote parts of New Mexico. He first created a telemedicine program between New Heart and the Gallup Rehoboth McKinley Christian Hospital in Gallup, New Mexico. This program, which lasted for six years, provided cardiac rehabilitation services to patients in Gallup who would not otherwise have been able to undergo this treatment. With face-to-face interaction between Albuquerque and Gallup, Dr. Lueker was able to achieve excellent measurable outcomes similar to those seen in Albuquerque patients treated on site. Dr. Lueker also directed an educational initiative to rural New Mexico physicians using the tele-video conferencing model. During this program, nationally known cardiologists spoke to an audience at the New Heart location and were also seen and heard at over 10 sites in rural New Mexico. Such programs have the potential for great impact on the health of rural residents in the state of New Mexico and elsewhere. Because of these initiatives, Dr. Lueker was appointed vice chairman of the New Mexico Telehealth Commission where he served for one year.
Dr. Lueker co-founded the Southwest Cardiology Symposium, which ran for 38 consecutive years. He has also spoken at many conferences around the country, on topics ranging from lipids and diabetes to the use of telemedicine as a method of healthcare delivery.
Among other honors, Dr Lueker served as New Mexico governor for the American College of Cardiology from 1988 to 1991. He has received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from Northern Arizona University and the Laureate Award from the American College of Physicians. He has over 35 publications to his credit.
As part of the New Heart mission, Dr. Lueker has also conducted a number of community outreach projects aimed at reducing the impact of heart disease in underserved children and minorities. As he has increasingly understood the importance of primary prevention, Dr. Lueker’s efforts have focused on preventing serious cardiac disease from occurring in the first place. He hopes, one day, to put himself out of the cardiac rehab business.