Spectrum institute aligns doctors research and education

April 1, 2011
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Spectrum Health has launched the Heart and Vascular Institute for doctors, researchers, medical students and patients connected to the Fred and Lena Meijer Heart Center in Grand Rapids.

“The universal thought is we can take the next quantum leap in creating a cardiovascular care system for our region by taking what was existing in individual organizations and separate from each other and putting those together,” said Suzette Jaskie, the institute’s executive director and CEO of West Michigan Heart, the cardiology practice that joined Spectrum Health in 2010.

“By aligning physicians, by aligning hospitals and physicians, aligning all of that with (the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine) and Van Andel (Institute) would be the next step.”

The creation of the Heart and Vascular Institute as the umbrella for all of Spectrum’s cardiology activities as well as to align non-Spectrum physicians was discussed prior to that acquisition. Jaskie said work on bringing the institute to fruition began in mid-2010. An on-air fundraiser was conducted with WOOD Radio in early 2011. She called Spectrum’s acquisition of West Michigan Heart “the impetus” for creating the institute.

“There are 98 physicians that call themselves Heart and Vascular Institute doctors,” she said. “Of those 98, 43 of them are actually employed by the system. That would be a combination of some cardiologists from West Michigan Heart as well as cardiologists from the (Spectrum Health) Medical Group and vascular surgeons from the Medical Group.

“But that’s only a small portion of the physicians that are involved with this. The other 50-some doctors are independent groups that are coming together with those employed docs to form this aligned approach.”

The roster encompasses an array of cardiology-related specialties, Jaskie said, such as surgeons, radiologists and anesthesiologists.

“So this thing is far bigger than West Michigan Heart and always will be,” she said. “The key is our interests are integrated, not that the practices are necessarily employed.”

Jaskie said the primary activities include integration of care, research and education.

For example, a team including cardiologists, surgeons, intensivists, emergency room doctors and image specialists has been created to work with patients with rapid and severe heart damage, who often arrive at Spectrum from other hospitals, she said.

The institute also will boost Spectrum’s ability to initiate and administer clinical trials at the heart center, she said. Dr. Magdi Yacoub, a colleague in Britian of Dr. Asghar Khaghani, the transplant surgeon tabbed to launch Spectrum’s heart transplant program, has been to Grand Rapids to begin a project with the VAI regarding genetics and the heart, Jaskie said.

“We could not have done that unless we had this kind of alignment and vision and focus,” she said. “And we couldn’t have done that without community support.”

The future also includes a plan to develop cardiology and vascular fellowship for advanced medical education, Jaskie added.

“What that does when we have specialty fellowships, it not only helps us to train future physicians … it also elevates our whole primary care education program and makes it more attractive to potential students,” she said. “It helps us overall in improving the number and draw of medical students that are interested in coming to Grand Rapids to train and hopefully stay in our region.”

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