If at first you succeed why not succeed again

July 12, 2010
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It turns out that the one that got away the first time is back.

Dr. Asghar Khaghani, last week named the lead surgeon for Spectrum Health’s fledgling heart transplant program, said he was a candidate for the job back in the 1990s, when Butterworth Hospital’s state approval expired before it was able to get a doctor on board.

“It was the town that I was interested in, and the people that I knew at that time,” Khaghani said.

Khaghani went on to perform more than 1,000 heart transplants and 5,000 cardiovascular surgeries in England and lecture around the world. One of those transplants was in 1997 for Amway co-founder Richard DeVos, and Khaghani said the two built a friendship in the ensuing years.

“I thought it was quite interesting because I nearly did the same thing 22 years ago,” he told the Business Journal. “At this stage of my career, I thought it was a really good offer.”

Having spent his career building the transplant program at Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust in England, Khaghani said he is retiring from that post and has agreed to spend three years launching Spectrum’s program.

He will work with the eight doctors who belong to West Michigan Cardiothoracic Surgeons, said Dr. Robert Hooker. Hooker, who hasn’t done a heart transplant in 13 years, and at least one additional surgeon will work alongside Khaghani with the goal of attaining certification from the United Network for Organ Sharing. The program is required to have at least one UNOS-certified heart transplant surgeon.

Hooker said Khaghani will have a medical license that permits him to practice only at Spectrum Health.

DeVos has contributed funding for Khaghani’s position. The amount of the donation was not disclosed. The Medical Group Management Association pegs starting compensation from an average of $522,819 upward to $700,000 plus. And that’s in addition to a signing bonus, relocation costs and other perks, according to physician recruiting firm Merritt Hawkins.

Betting on turmoil

The opening of the Gun Lake Casino in Wayland Township may be delayed due to financing issues, and another tribe that wants to build a competing casino in West Michigan has them on edge. But at least the Gun Lake Tribe of Pottawatomi Indians received what they called some good news last week.

Two non-Native American groups that were trying to put proposals on the November ballot that could have dramatically increased the number of casinos in Michigan failed to get enough petitions signed on time.

One of the groups, Racing to Save Michigan, wanted to allow casino gaming at five horseracing tracks in the state, plus at three other locations. The other group, Michigan is Yours, was led by the mayor of Benton Harbor and former Detroit Gaming Commissioner Frank Stella. That group wanted to see new casinos at Detroit, Benton Harbor, Flint, Lansing, Muskegon, Port Huron and at Detroit Metro Airport. It also wanted the state to allow sports betting at the casinos.

An organization called Protect MI Vote was formed in opposition to the ballot proposals, with members of the coalition including Michigan senators and representatives, officials from several chambers of commerce, and five Native American tribes in the state.

James Nye, representing Protect MI Vote, said the proposals would have meant that local communities would lose the right to vote on whether they wanted those casinos.

“Neither proposal gained any momentum because Michigan voters oppose losing their right to vote on gaming expansion and giving secret groups of people casino licenses under the constitution” of Michigan, said Nye.

“Our coalition has been active for the last several months. We will organize every time special interest groups attempt to circumvent the constitution to expand casinos.”

Nye is also the designated spokesperson for the Gun Lake Tribe. Late last week he was at a legislative hearing in Muskegon in opposition to the proposal of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians to build a casino in Fruitport at the former Great Lakes Downs site.

The Little River Band, which already has a casino in Manistee, was perhaps the only tribe in the Lower Peninsula with a casino that chose not to join the Protect MI Vote coalition.

Meanwhile, the long and difficult trail the Gun Lake Tribe has been on for more than 10 years may be stretching a little farther. Last September, construction finally began on the casino — albeit a much smaller casino than originally planned. Recently, however, a New York business news organization revealed that the tribe was shopping for a $160 million loan to keep the project going, and the casino might not open until February.

Nye pooh-poohed such a delay. He said the tribe had hoped to open the casino late this summer and is “now looking at fall 2010.” He conceded the change does have “something to do with securing full financing for the project.” Construction of the casino “has not ceased,” said Nye.

Meanwhile, just up the road …

The city fathers and mothers of Wayland, just a few miles north of the Gun Lake Casino project, were practically dancing in the streets last week — but certainly not because the casino may open later than planned. The casino “is going to bring jobs to the area,” said Mike Salisbury, the chair of the Wayland Downtown Development Authority.

What Wayland was celebrating was the fact that it is one of only three communities to be selected this year by the Michigan State Housing Development Authority to participate in the Michigan Main Street program.

Wayland had been participating on an “Associate” level but now is on the “Select” level.

Salisbury, whose business is in downtown Wayland, said participation in the MMS program is a five-year commitment, which includes the hiring of a full-time Main Street manager.

The MSHDA designation does not include funding, but offers intense training opportunities and other technical assistance from state employees for the new Wayland Main Street/DDA Board, committee members and volunteers.

The program “will help us revitalize downtown,” said Salisbury, by helping the city attract new investors through new marketing strategies.

While the recession hasn’t necessarily hurt downtown Wayland, “you don’t see new investment. You don’t see existing businesses improving their facades,” said Salisbury.

And when the Gun Lake Casino does open, there will be about 1,000 people working new jobs just three or four miles to the south — and that can’t hurt, either.

Finding a mentor

The newly formed Career Transitions Center West Michigan will hold its first free event aimed at introducing the organization’s concept of helping career-oriented professionals in transition partner with a mentor. The July 19 event, which is open to the public, will be held from 3-4 p.m. at the Cascade Branch of Kent District Library. Space is limited to 50.

According to Executive Director Russ Gardner, the CTCwm events, led by area employment specialists, will focus on the process of transition and how CTCwm supports clients as they move through each stage. An overview of CTCwm services will be provided at each session. The organization hopes to begin the coaching sessions starting in August.

See www.ctcwm.org for a list of additional information sessions scheduled in West Michigan through the end of July.

Ethiopian cause benefits

Art Aid International will host its fourth annual Art and Wine Event from 6-9 p.m. Aug. 12 at a private residence in Ada. All event proceeds will go to the Tesfa Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides early education to underprivileged Ethiopian children.

The event is open to the public. With a donation of $20, attendants can partake in wine tasting, a silent auction and entertainment.

Stephanie Schlatter, local artist and founder of Art Aid International, said the event raised nearly $4,000 last year. "That's about half the running expenses for one of the schools for an entire year," she said.

For more information, contact Jenna Kyser, (616) 443-7036.

Garden Center effort

Creekside Garden Center has just begun a new program to help feed the hungry. Beginning July 12 and every Monday thereafter, patrons can bring in any excess garden produce to the garden center and the staff will take it to the West Michigan Food Bank. The food bank will then distribute it to the area’s needy.

"We're hoping to stir up the community and get others to think about giving back and help those in need" Creekside owner Cathy Evanzo said. "We're hoping that through this project young people especially will develop a sense of service that they will use throughout their lives to help the less fortunate. We want our local community to get involved and ‘pay it forward,’ so to speak.

Creekside Garden Center, 4015 Fruit Ridge Ave. NW, is a local independent store owned by Kim and Cathy Evanzo.

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