SoutheastHEALTH Partnership with Washington University provides peace of mind and heart

Saturday, February 24, 2018

The comfort of home and the power of leading international specialty medical care sounds like an ideal combination. When SoutheastHEALTH began its collaboration with the division of Cardiothoracic surgery at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis in February of 2017, the goal was to create that perfect pairing. According to Shauna Hoffman, vice president of marketing & business development at SoutheastHEALTH, the collaboration has created many opportunities to improve health care for heart patients throughout the region, as well as provided peace of mind.

Shortly before the first anniversary of the collaboration, both institutions announced the appointment of Paul D. Robison, MD, medical director for cardiothoracic surgery at Southeast Heart and Vascular Services, as assistant professor of clinical surgery for the division of cardiothoracic surgery at Washington University School of Medicine. Washington University School of Medicine's cardiothoracic division is a leading international cardiothoracic (heart, lungs and chest) surgery program. Established in the 1930s, it was one of the earliest programs of its kind. Today, the division provides care and research in four specialties -- adult cardiac surgery, adult general thoracic surgery, pediatric cardiothoracic surgery and cardiothoracic critical care -- and is dedicated to training future generations of cardiothoracic surgeons.

SoutheastHEALTH and Washington University's continued commitment to their collaboration means local patients get access to world-class care without having to leave home -- and that students of cardiothoracic surgery can experience the broader practice of a community hospital. Dr. Robison, who is from Deer Creek, Oklahoma and has worked for larger hospitals in Chicago, said, "You'll never work harder than what we do in regional hospitals. It is a very different experience from a large urban hospital where you might just do one kind of surgery. My office is in the Intensive Care Unit. I really see my patients. These are my people and serving a rural community is an honor.

"This appointment and collaboration continues to enhance the level of interventional heart care by bringing evidence-based innovations in surgical techniques and treatment options for our critically ill heart patients."

When a patient with heart failure is not likely to have a successful outcome with traditional heart surgery, Robison said the specialists at Washington University are just "a phone call away" to consult on referrals for heart transplants or ventricular assist devices (VAD). Patients only travel to St. Louis for the actual surgery. All the work leading up to the surgery can be done in Cape Girardeau. For follow up care, staff from the Advanced Surgical Clinic from Washington University comes to Cape Girardeau monthly.

Another key feature of the collaboration, Hoffman said, is Quality Peer Review, where SoutheastHEALTH's heart surgeons review their cases each month with the specialists at Washington University. When asked how the doctors responded to getting second opinions on everything they do, Robison stated they welcomed it, because "We are very critical of ourselves. The leading cause of death in the United States is what we do for a living. We have to ask ourselves hard questions and never stop learning."

Knowing that the partnership of SoutheastHEALTH and Washington University can bring academic power with a community commitment should also bring peace of mind and heart to the region.