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Archive for March, 2011

Cantuaria Appointed Medical Director of Northside’s National Cancer Institute Program

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

Northside Hospital announced the appointment of Dr. Guilherme Cantuaria as Medical Director and Principal Investigator for the National Cancer Institute Community Cancer Centers Program (NCCCP). In April of last year, Northside Hospital was among 14 new sites chosen by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health, to join a national network of community cancer centers offering expanded research opportunities and state-of-the-art cancer care.

The NCCCP Medical Directorship and Principal Investigator role is a vital component to the NCCCP Program. Cantuaria will have oversight of cancer program activities, including clinical management, community outreach and disparities, clinical trials, information technology, biospecimen initiatives, quality of patient care, and survivorship and palliative care. As a board certified gynecologic oncologist with over ten years of experience in the specialty, Cantauria has held a variety of leadership positions and served as a Principal Investigator for Gynecologic Oncology Group (GOG).

“The Hospital’s participation in the NCCCP network, affords the hospital, physicians and patients greater access to leading-edge cancer care services (from prevention, diagnosis, treatment and survivorship),”said Cantuaria.

The NCCCP Program studies ways for more patients to have access to the latest, evidence-based care close to where they live. For a variety of reasons, many cancer patients cannot commute to major academic medical centers for treatment. In fact, 85 percent of patients are diagnosed, and receive at least their first course of treatment, at a community hospital.

NCCCP Centers are addressing ways to reduce healthcare disparities, improve access to clinical trials, improve overall quality of care, promote an infrastructure to collect high-quality biospecimens such as blood and tissue samples for research, and link with national computer networks that support research. The Centers also work to improve survivorship, palliative care services, and patient advocacy.


Medical Association of Atlanta Dinner Meeting

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

March 24, 2011 at Maggiano’s Buckhead.  For more information, visit Medical Association of Atlanta.


Aortic Stenosis – Clinical Trial

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

Saint Joseph’s Hospital was selected to participate in Medtronics CoreValve  U.S. Clinical Trial.  The CoreValve could provide a new therapy for patients with aortic stenosis who are considered inoperable.

As a participating site in this nationwide clinical trial, Saint Joseph’s cardiologists and cardiac surgeons will be evaluating a new, non-surgical alternative to open-heart surgery for patients with severe aortic stenosis (abnormal narrowing of the aortic valve) who are at high risk for surgery or cannot have surgery. During the catheterization, cardiologists will replace a patient’s failing aortic valve with the prosthetic CoreValve which uses self-expandable technology to deploy inside the diseased aortic valve, effectively eliminating the need for open-heart surgery or surgical removal of the native valve. Once the CoreValve is in place, it takes over the native valve’s function, ensuring that oxygen-rich blood flows into the aorta and circulates throughout the body.

Approximately 100,000 people in the U.S. suffer from sever aortic stenosis and one-third are considered inoperable; currently, surgical replacement is the only therapy with significant clinical effect that is available in the United States.

The Medtronic CoreValve U.S. Clinical Trial will enroll a total of more than 1,300 of these patients through 40 U.S. clinical sites.  For more information about participating in this clinical trial, contact Rita Campbell, RN, CCRC at 678-843-5578.

For more information about the Medtronic CoreValve U.S. Clinical Trial, visit


Dr. Ronald Steis – Oncologist

Monday, March 14th, 2011

A respected medical oncologist, Dr. Ronald Steis was recognized as the Medical Honoree at American Cancer Society’s 2011 Evening of Hope event held in April.  Dr. Steis is a physician with Atlanta Cancer Care, a medical oncology practice.

Dr. Ronald Steis

Dr. Steis was selected for this honor for the work he does for cancer patients in the Atlanta community.  He currently serves as the head of North Fulton Hospital’s Cancer Committee, contributing not only to his patients in his private practice but also to all of those in the hospital through his involvement with the multidisciplinary group.

The American Cancer Society’s Evening of Hope is a gala intended to raise funds for the organization and honor local cancer survivors and medical professionals that continuously work to give hope.

Dr. Steis received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Pittsburgh. Following his clinical fellowship at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), Dr. Steis continued during the next several years to conduct research work there, leading investigational studies while serving as Chief of the Clinical Research Branch of NCI. He has authored articles published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the Journal of Clinical Oncology and Blood.

Dr. Steis currently is a member of the American College of Physicians and the American Society of Clinical Oncology. Dr. Steis has been a resident of Atlanta since 1991, when he began practicing as a full-time medical oncology specialist. He is the principal investigator of all clinical trials being conducted at Atlanta Cancer Care. He has twice been named as one of Atlanta’s “top docs” by Atlanta Magazine.


Emory and Saint Joseph’s Announce Formal Partnership

Friday, March 11th, 2011

Emory Healthcare and Saint Joseph’s Hospital announced a formal partnership between the two health systems, forming the largest health system in the state of Georgia, with major hospital campuses in DeKalb County, Johns Creek, Midtown Atlanta and Sandy Springs.

Emory Healthcare and Saint Joseph’s leadership say they see this partnership as a strategic and transformative opportunity to marry the clinical and cultural strengths of the two organizations and to create an exciting new opportunity for the delivery of health care to the community.

“At our cores, both Emory Healthcare and Saint Joseph’s Hospital share compatible values and a common purpose: to provide outstanding health care to North Georgia and the state,” said John Fox, president and CEO of Emory Healthcare. “Combining the excellence of our physicians, skill and experience of our clinical staffs, and promise of our research capabilities only strengthens what we offer patients.”

The Joint Operating Company (JOC) being formed by the two systems is not an acquisition, but rather a partnership business model, which the two organizations discussed, but dismissed last year. During this recent bid process, Emory again pursued its interest in a JOC with a renewed commitment and the negotiations were a success.

The arrangement would give Emory Healthcare a majority ownership of Saint Joseph’s, with a 51/49 percentage split, and allow the joint health care system to expand services. Saint Joseph’s will retain involvement in governance of the JOC, including super majority voting rights on certain issues critical to Saint Joseph’s mission and values.

Subject to review by the Catholic Archbishop of Atlanta, it is anticipated that Saint Joseph’s Hospital will continue as a Catholic facility sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy.

“Similar values and mission statements outline our shared commitment to delivering compassionate, innovative care with integrity and excellence. While complementing each other well, each organization brings unique features to the JOC that will enable us to better care for our community, while positioning us to meet the growing challenges of health care and industry reform,” said Paul Johnson, CEO of Saint Joseph’s Hospital. “We are thrilled to have Emory as a partner as we tackle the changing landscape of healthcare and create an even better and more innovative clinical care delivery model.”

The financial details of the transaction are not being publicly disclosed at this time, but the governing boards of both parties have reviewed the terms of the transaction in detail and have determined that each party has contributed adequate and fair consideration for its interest in the proposed new company.

Together, Saint Joseph’s and Emory will submit formation documents to the Georgia Attorney General (AG) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for review. Regulatory reviews will likely take 4 to 6 months at a minimum. As such, any changes in ownership will likely not take place until mid to late 2011. This transaction is also subject to approval by certain Catholic entities.


Emory Physicians Perform Hospital’s First Robotic Pancreatectomy Surgeries Using da Vinci Surgical System

Thursday, March 10th, 2011

A team of surgeons at Emory University Hospital has recently performed the hospital’s first successful robotic pancreatectomy surgeries using the da Vinci Surgical System.

To date, two robotic pancreatectomies to treat pancreatic tumors have been performed at Emory with excellent results by Dr. David Kooby, who was assisted by fellow Emory surgical oncologist Dr. Shishir Maithel for one procedure and Emory urologist Dr. Kenneth Ogan for the other.

A standard pancreatectomy is the surgical removal of a diseased portion of either the pancreas, or the entire organ. It is typically a treatment option for early-detected pancreatic cancer, or for permanent damage from severe trauma or constant inflammation of the pancreas. The pancreas is a small organ located in the abdomen behind the lower part of the stomach, which produces enzymes that help in digestion, as well as other hormones, such as insulin, which help the body convert sugar to energy.

First performed in the United States in 2007, robotic pancreatectomies provide a level of dexterity not possible with traditional laparoscopic instruments. Using the da Vinci device, Kooby and his colleagues are able to insert a laparoscope and robotic arms through five small incisions in the patient’s abdomen. They then view the operating field in 3-D at a surgical console, using computerized controls to precisely manipulate instruments with a 360-degree range of motion. The procedure culminates with the removal of the pancreas (with or without the spleen) through a two-inch incision. Proponents of robotic surgery feel this technology will provide even better patient outcomes and satisfaction than normal laparoscopy.

Kooby has adopted robotic technology after having conducted notable prospective and retrospective assessments of open and laparoscopic methods of pancreas, liver, and biliary tract resection, collaborating regularly with investigators at Emory and medical facilities around the country, and directed a national study of the efficacy of laparoscopic pancreatectomy from 2002-2006 that concluded that the procedure offered patients shorter hospital stays and fewer complications.

“For me, developing and making robotic pancreatectomy a common clinical practice at Emory was a logical progression. ”The degree of accuracy the robotic method allows would be virtually impossible to replicate otherwise. The technology also makes it easier to preserve the spleen and greatly reduces the complexity of dissection and suturing, Kooby explains.

“While we’re certainly excited by the possibilities of the robotic technology, particularly in terms of patient recovery, we are also very interested in comparing and determining the benefits of robotic versus laparoscopic pancreactectomy,” says Kooby. “We will continue to evaluate the role of the robot in complex pancreatic operations, particularly since the technology appears to provide better dexterity, visualization and confidence in certain circumstances. Our hope is that we will be able to apply the technology to even more complex minimally invasive procedures as we move forward.”


New Clinical Trial Underway for Patients with Atrial Fibrillation

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

A new clinical trial underway for patients with atrial fibrillation — using an implantable device — may eliminate the need for a common blood-thinning medication, according to researchers at Emory University Hospital Midtown.

Atrial fibrillation (commonly called A-fib) is a heart condition in which the upper chambers of the heart beat too fast, causing an irregular heartbeat and ineffective pumping action. This condition can cause blood to stagnate or pool and form clots in the left atrial appendage (LAA). If a clot forms in this area, it can increase the chances of having a stroke.

Many patients with A-fib are prescribed blood-thinning medications, such as warfarin (brand name Coumadin), to prevent blood from clotting. This medication is effective in reducing the risk of stroke, but may cause side effects such as bleeding. Blood-thinning drugs can also be affected by other factors, such as diet and other medications, and require frequent blood draws to monitor dosage levels.

The trial, called PREVAIL (Prospective Randomized EVAluation of the Watchman LAA Closure Device In Patients with Atrial Fibrillation Versus Long Term Warfarin Therapy), involves implanting via catheter a small, umbrella-shaped mesh device, called the Watchman closure device, into the heart chamber to prevent stroke. This is a confirmatory study (and the third study testing the implant), which will also look at safety and efficacy of the device.

“We have had good success with this device in A-fib patients in two previous studies,” says David De Lurgio, MD, associate professor of medicine in the Division of Cardiology, Emory University School of Medicine and principal investigator of this clinical trial. “We implant this device into the left atrial appendage of the heart, closing it off. This prevents blood clots from escaping and entering the blood stream, which could lead to a stroke.”

De Lurgio and his colleagues have had five years of experience with this technology thus far. Emory Healthcare is the only health system in Georgia providing access to this device though participation in this clinical trial.

Patients are randomly selected by computer to either receive the Watchman device or remain on Coumadin without the device (control group).

In those selected to receive the device, physicians will implant the small device following a trans-esophageal echocardiogram, which images the LAA for any blood clots. After implantation, these patients will remain on Coumadin for 45 days, then the heart will be re-imaged. If the heart tissue has healed, participants will be taken off Coumadin and placed on aspirin therapy and possibly clopidogrel (Plavix), an anti-platelet medication.

Researchers will then follow study patients with and without the device for five years, monitoring those who have come off of Coumadin very closely. If the FDA approves the device at the end of this clinical trial, those patients in the control group will then have the option to receive the device.

“If approved by the FDA at the end of our five year study, this device will give A-fib patients an alternative treatment option to using Coumadin,” says De Lurgio.  Angel Leon, MD, professor of medicine, and Mikhael El Chami, MD, assistant professor of medicine, both in the Division of Cardiology at Emory, are also involved in this study.

For more information, please call 404-686-2504.


First PCI Procedures for Gwinnett Medical Center and Henry Medical Center

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

Gwinnett Medical Center announced that its first Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PCI) procedure was performed in its cardiac catheterization lab on March 1st.  Henry Medical Center also performed its first PCI procedure recently.

“This moves us one major step closer to offering the complete array of advanced cardiovascular care right here in Gwinnett,” stated Philip R. Wolfe, GMC president and CEO.

The ability to perform PCI is one component of what will be a full suite of advanced cardiovascular services at Gwinnett Medical Center. Approval to provide the service was granted by the Georgia Department of Community Health, complementing the approval to offer open heart surgical services. The hospital is currently constructing its Heart & Vascular Center at GMC-Lawrenceville, but is able to perform PCI services within its existing cardiac catheterization labs.  The Heart & Vascular Center is scheduled to open in early 2012.

The procedure was performed by Dr. Louis Heller of Cardiovascular Group, P.C.  Dr. Heller is Board Certified in Internal Medicine, Cardiovascular Diseases, Interventional Cardiology and a Fellow of the American College of Cardiology.  He is the Director of the cardiac cath lab at GMC.

Cardiologist Muthusamy Sekar, M.D. performed the PCI procedure at Henry Medical Center where they have spent the past six months developing its coronary angioplasty program in collaboration with Piedmont Heart Institute.  Program development included training staff, implementing policies and protocols and conducting simulated angioplasty procedures.



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