May 22, 2009

Meeting traces Heart Institute’s roots

Featured Image

Harry Jacobson, M.D., left, and Keith Churchwell, M.D., share a laugh at last week's Vanderbilt Heart and Vascular Institute town hall meeting. (photo by Susan Urmy)

Meeting traces Heart Institute's roots

The Vanderbilt Heart & Vascular Institute (VHVI) Town Hall was an opportunity to reflect on the progress that has taken place since 1997, when the first meetings were held to discuss a partnership with Page-Campbell Cardiology Group, and to thank the person whose vision made VHVI a reality – Harry Jacobson, M.D., vice chancellor for Health Affairs.

Page-Campbell, a longtime anchor of Saint Thomas' heart programs, began in 1970 with the collaboration of two cardiologists — Harry Page, M.D., and W. Barton Campbell, M.D. In 1997 the group began to think about developing an outpatient cardiac catheterization lab in Davidson County.

“We had a partner who came to us and said ‘We think that’s a good idea.’ That partner was Dr. Jacobson and VUMC,” recalled Keith Churchwell, M.D., VHVI executive medical director. “We had a good time sitting at meetings, talking about this. A few weeks later, Dr. Jacobson came back to us and said, ‘I think we need to take another step. There is an opportunity to do something new in the Nashville community with regards to cardiovascular care.’”

What came from those meetings was the proposal to formalize a partnership between Vanderbilt and Page-Campbell. In 1999, the Vanderbilt-Page Campbell Heart Institute was officially formed. Rob Hood, M.D., assistant professor of Medicine, was a managing partner of Page-Campbell at the time.

“At first blush that seemed to represent a number of challenges and obstacles. On the other hand, the complementary fits of these two entities also seemed to suggest a powerful synergism. What followed was about two years worth of a lot of meetings involving a lot of attorneys, physicians and administrators,” Hood said.

Page, Hood, Churchwell and a handful of other cardiologists began seeing patients at Vanderbilt one half-day a week while maintaining their practices at Saint Thomas. They gradually increased their presence on the Vanderbilt campus.

“In 2004 Dr. Jacobson came to us and said, ‘We’ve been engaged for a long time; it’s time to get married. It’s time to think about having a true integration in terms of the Heart Institute,’” Churchwell said. “From our perspective, this seemed like a very reasonable idea, a natural progression of the relationship that had been fostered over the previous five years.”

On July 1, 2006 the two cardiology practices officially joined forces to provide the most comprehensive services in the Midstate when the Page-Campbell practice, along with its staff, moved to the Vanderbilt Heart & Vascular Institute.

“The Page-Campbell Group was one of the most stubborn groups I have ever worked with,” Jacobson said to the laughter of the crowd gathered at the Town Hall. “They really thought they had the best thing going over there at that hospital down the road, and it was very difficult to convince them to come here. But I think, retrospectively, it’s one of the best decisions they’ve made, and it’s a great example of how partnership with a vision can really create something great.”

In 1999 the total number of cardiology clinic visits was around 9,800 for the year. By 2004-2005 it was up to 25,000.

“We will be over 70,000 visits before the end of this academic year,” Churchwell said.

The leadership team thanked Jacobson for his vision, commitment and loyalty in helping them achieve this growth.

“The notion, at the very beginning, was such a wild idea that had Dr. Jacobson not been able to articulate succinctly and clearly what this vision was, we probably would have never bought in to it,” Hood said. “I think we’ve all had tremendous growth as a result of this relationship.”

From 2004-2007, there was a great influx of cardiologists and cardiac surgeons to VHVI. John Byrne, M.D., chair of the Department of Cardiac Surgery, came on board in 2004 from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and was one of Jacobson’s key recruits.

“I would say that without Dr. Jacobson none of what you see today would be here,” Byrne said. “All of the phenomenal growth is the result of a visionary, transformational leader.”

In 2006, Michael Petracek, M.D., moved his practice to Vanderbilt. In addition to being one of the region's top heart valve and heart rhythm surgeons, Petracek shares a significant place in Nashville's medical history as a member of the team of surgeons at Saint Thomas Hospital who performed Nashville's first adult heart transplant. All told, nearly two dozen private practice physicians moved their practices to Vanderbilt.

Today, Vanderbilt Heart encompasses more than 70 cardiologists and cardiac surgeons.

Doug Sawyer, M.D., Ph.D., chief of the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, thanked Jacobson for pointing them in the right direction.

“We may not know exactly where we’re headed, but we’re on a trajectory that we love. We appreciate that.”

Churchwell presented Jacobson with a signed, framed print of a Vanderbilt Heart ad campaign poster.

“Thank you very much. I have a new office I am moving into. It’s at 3401 West End. This will be a great thing to put in that office,” Jacobson said. “Lately, I have been watching the television when our commercials are on. I just love those, and I think they really tell the story of where heart is headed and the reason we’re at a place like this.

“Vanderbilt is not a place to come to work – it’s a place to come to be inspired and innovate. The most important thing is to continue to innovate and do great things for patients.”