Carolinas HealthCare System

Helping Perform Belize’s First Open Heart Surgery

Reaching Out Across Borders

To learn more about the International Medical Outreach Program, visit carolinashealthcare.org/imo.

On July 16, physicians from the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital (KHMH), in Belize City, Belize, and Carolinas HealthCare System's (CHS) Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute performed the country's first open heart surgery.

Francis Robicsek, MD, PhD, FACS, Chairman Emeritus of the Department of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery and R. Mark Stiegel, MD, a cardiothoracic surgeon with Sanger, assisted Adrian Coye, MD, director of medical services at KHMH, with performing a coronary artery bypass graft on a 72-year-old Belizean man. The next day, the surgeons performed a mitral valve replacement on a 56-year-old Belizean woman.

Supporting Physicians, Improving Patient Care

Although heart disease is the second-leading cause of death in Belize, the country lacked a modern cardiovascular diagnostic and interventional facility up until 2011, when Carolinas HealthCare System's International Medical Outreach (IMO) Program began providing support. Before that time, patients would either not receive treatment or would travel to neighboring countries for cardiac services. Today, due to ongoing support from the IMO Program, KHMH has the equipment and medical expertise necessary to diagnose and treat patients with heart ailments in the country.

Under the direction of Francis Robicsek, MD, PhD, FACS, the IMO Program donated and installed the country's first fully equipped cardiac catheterization laboratory in February 2011, at KHMH, one of only two major hospitals in Belize. The laboratory, also equipped with diagnostic imaging equipment, modernized cardiac care by 30 years.

Surgical team members of Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital and Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital in Belize City, Belize
Surgical team members of Karl Heusner Memorial
Hospital and Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute
Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital in Belize City, Belize

Since October 2011, the IMO Program has sent cardiology teams from Sanger to perform catheterizations in Belize each month and will continue to send teams until the interventional cardiologist at KHMH is trained to perform catheterizations alone. The procedures performed in the laboratory have helped identify several patients in need of open heart surgery. Now, KHMH can provide a continuum of cardiac care for patients in need of open heart surgery.

The ultimate goal is to build and promote sustainable healthcare programs in these communities. Training health providers to perform procedures on their own is the key to building a cardiac program that can help patients for years to come. On the horizon, Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute and the IMO Program look forward to bringing modernized cardiac care to more countries and help even more patients live longer, healthier lives.

 

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