Carolinas HealthCare System

Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute
Making Heart History Day 1: Celebrating the Birth of Belize’s Cardiology Program

After more than 50 years in action, Carolinas HealthCare System’s International Medical Outreach Program continues its work abroad. Over the next week, the Program will be in Belize to support and celebrate the birth of a cardiology program. Follow Deborah Neffa Creech as she writes about the experience.

Bags are packed, and we are headed southbound for another memorable trip to Belize City, Belize.

A consortium of more than a dozen supporters from Charlotte – cardiologists, surgeons, echo techs, scrub nurses, perfusionists, anesthesiologists and the International Medical Outreach team – will fly more than 1,300 miles to celebrate the birth of a cardiology program, three years in the making. And counting.

Monday, January 20, 2014 (save the date!) marks the day that Belize’s largest public tertiary care hospital, the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital (KHMH), will begin offering a complete “suite” of cardiology services to the majority of Belizean patients.

A long-awaited moment is now only a few days away, and we could not be happier to share this exciting accomplishment with the staff at KHMH and the people of Belize.

Now, a little bit about Belize

Rich Biodiversity, Hard-working Natives

It is a country on the northeastern coast of Central America and neighbor to Guatemala and Mexico. Formerly British Honduras, Belize is the only country in the area that has dubbed English its official language, although Kriol (Belizean Creole) and Spanish are commonly spoken.

More than 320,000 Belizeans inhabit the country, known for its rich biodiversity and a coastline facing the Caribbean Sea. With an average year-round temperature of 84°F and breathtaking islands, it is easy to see why tourism is one of the country’s largest economic drivers.

But what make Belize a truly unique place are the visionary, hard-working natives who set their minds to meeting a goal, and meet the goal they do.

Achieving Medical Milestones

Meet Adrian Coye, chief of cardiothoracic surgery and medical services director at the KHMH. His infectious vision to create a heart healthier Belize has helped the country achieve medical milestones that, as recently as 2010, were considered practically impossible.

With nearly a quarter of mortalities each year in Belize attributable to cardiovascular disease, heart care seemed an obvious solution. But without as much as an echocardiograph machine (a common tool used for diagnosis of heart disease) or a trained cardiac team at the KHMH, Dr. Coye’s goal of practicing heart surgeries were far from reach.

That is, until he met Dr. Francis Robicsek, vice president of Charlotte’s International Medical Outreach Program. In partnership with Carolinas HealthCare System and the Heineman Foundation of Charlotte, the KHMH has spent the past three years preparing to offer its medically underserved patients a second chance at a healthy heart.

Today, the KHMH is well on its way to offering a sustainable cardiology program equipped to diagnose and treat patients who cannot afford to pay private-hospital rates or travel to neighboring countries for similar services.

Thanks to the vision and dedication of one Belizean, a second chance of life is possible for a country.

Deborah is a member of the communications team for International Medical Outreach, part of Carolinas HealthCare System.

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