August 20, 2004

VUMC donates two cardiac cath labs to Chile as part of joint program

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Medical student David Chooljian, left, and Francisco Albornoz, M.D., helped coordinate the donation of two cardiac catheterization labs to a Chilean hospital. (photo by Mary Donaldson)

VUMC donates two cardiac cath labs to Chile as part of joint program

For decades, Vanderbilt University Medical Center has worked to improve the health of thousands of cardiac patients worldwide.

With heart disease ranking as the No. 1 killer in the state and the nation, Vanderbilt has a special interest in promoting cardiac health and research.

Now the Medical Center is reaching outside the walls of the institution through a joint program with Concepcion University nearly 5,000 miles away in Chile.

Cardiovascular disease is also the No. 1 disease killer in Chile. The country had limited options for treatment and advancement in the area until it trained Francisco Albornoz, M.D.

Albornoz came to Vanderbilt four years ago to train with Vanderbilt physicians and to develop an interventional cardiovascular program for his homeland.

Albornoz, assistant professor of Medicine and Pharmacology at Concepcion University, will also serve as the director of their Cardiac catheterization Lab. He will lead the Interventional and Clinical Research program at Concepcion.

Along with the medical training, Albornoz received much more — Vanderbilt’s donation of two cardiac catheterization labs.

“This offers them a chance to cure cardiovascular diseases,” said Dan Brinkman, director of Cardiac catherization and Electrophysiology labs at Vanderbilt. “This gives their patients a huge benefit. Until now, the more basic ailments were being addressed, but this will help improve the Public Chilean medical system.”

The equipment in combination with other investments from the Minister of Health will support two main public hospitals with a total of 1,800 beds.

“The main idea is not just about the donation,” Albornoz said. “We are looking forward to the collaborative relationship with Vanderbilt and developing a clinical and research program. Our partnership with Vanderbilt will allow us to improve the standard of care and the quality of research in Chile.”

With the help of Project Cure, a local organization that coordinates the donation and shipment of medical supplies to other countries, the catherization labs were recently shipped.

The collaboration may also generate a student exchange program, which will allow a Chilean fellow to attend Vanderbilt and offer Vanderbilt medical students and researchers the opportunity to travel to Chile.

David Chooljian, a dual degree student (M.D. and J.D.), is the first to visit the University of Concepcion’s Medical School. He traveled to Chile in July to set up the future undergraduate academic interchange and was there until mid-August helping Albornoz set up a Center for Clinical Investigations as well as giving presentations about research regulation compliance and informed consent.

“I’ve been using my professional interest in medical ethics and my fledgling background in medicine and law to help Dr. Albornoz give presentations to the deans of various schools at the University of Concepcion,” he said. “I will also be giving two presentations about informed consent, how it developed in the U.S. and how I think it will develop here.”

Chooljian hopes to work alongside Chilean doctors and medical students while in Chile as well as learn more about the people and culture. His undergraduate degree is in anthropology.