Grand Opening: Francis Robicsek, MD (far right), at the ribbon cutting for the first cardiac laboratory in Belize City.
Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute is part of a unique project to promote sustainable healthcare in third-world countries. Our team, along with the International Medical Outreach (IMO) Program, a partnership between Carolinas HealthCare System and the Heineman Foundation of Charlotte, established an international medical communication portal with the Guatemalan Institute of Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery (UNICAR).
This international portal is the first of its kind for the public hospital system in Guatemala and represents a major advancement in the quality of cardiac care in Central America.
Geoffrey A. Rose, MD, demonstrates the communication portal, showing a cardiac echocardiogram performed in real time by cardiologist Luis Arango, MD, in Belize.
The portal enables UNICAR cardiologists to consult with Sanger cardiologists in real time on complex cardiac cases. Sanger cardiologists can then recommend diagnostic studies and propose treatment plans for conditions, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It also allows cardiologists, surgeons, advanced care practitioners and nurses from both countries to participate in medical conferences and other educational opportunities not readily available in Guatemala.
Under the direction of Francis Robicsek, MD, Chairman Emeritus of Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute's Department of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, the IMO Program has established ongoing relationships among cardiologists, surgeons and technicians worldwide. Sanger and UNICAR have a longstanding history of cooperation dating back to the 1970s, when the Guatemalan Heart Program was established by Sanger cardiac surgeons and Guatemalan physicians trained at Carolinas Medical Center's (CMC's) main campus in Charlotte.
For decades, Sanger and the IMO Program have worked together to establish sustainable healthcare and medical programs in Guatemala and throughout Central America. These initiatives are made possible by donated equipment and supplies, as well as by medical education and training.
Sanger physicians train international medical personnel who travel to Charlotte to learn about echocardiography, catheterizations and surgery. After days, weeks or months of training, the personnel return to their native countries ready to practice cardiac care. Sanger also sends physicians and technicians to Central America to train medical personnel in their own healthcare facilities, with their own patients.
Last year, Sanger cardiologists traveled to Belize City, Belize, where the IMO Program donated the country's first-ever cardiac catheterization laboratory. This laboratory modernized cardiac care in Belize by 30 years and has so far treated hundreds of patients who otherwise would be unable to receive treatment.
A hospital in Escuintla, Guatemala, opened its first echocardiography laboratory, staffed by a Guatemalan echosonographer who received her training at CMC in 2011.
This year, the IMO Program will continue efforts to improve healthcare worldwide and participate in a milestone for cardiac health in Belize, supporting surgeons in Belize to perform the country's first open heart surgery. Two patients will be selected to receive this lifesaving surgery at Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital.
A Long and Productive Partnership
The International Medical Outreach Program is a partnership between Carolinas HealthCare System and the Heineman Foundation of Charlotte. Contrary to other local and national philanthropic organizations, where administrative and fundraising activities may consume 50 to 80 percent of collected funds, 100 percent of every donation received is spent on the designated project.
Guatemalan Institute of Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery: In the 1970s, the IMO Program helped establish UNICAR, which today is the largest cardiac surgery institute in Central America and performs more than 700 heart surgeries every year.
Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory Donations: Throughout the years, the program has donated equipment for cardiac catheterization labs in Central America, including Guatemala, Nicaragua, Belize and Honduras. The catheterization labs have provided vital cardiac services in both urban and rural areas.
Heart Surgery Training: By training international cardiologists and surgeons, Francis Robicsek, MD, and Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute physician volunteers have helped bring cardiac surgery to Central America. In 2007, Costa Rican physicians trained by the IMO Program performed the country's first successful heart transplant. Later this year, the program will help with Belize's first open heart surgery.
Echocardiograph Technician Training: The IMO Program works closely with hospitals throughout Guatemala, and soon in Belize, to train echocardiograph technicians. The hospitals send technicians to train at Carolinas HealthCare System's main campus in Charlotte.
|Lifesaving Care: (right), performs a cardiac procedure.
||Support and Friendship: Adrienne White and Ana Mariela Marroquin Garcia (right) by an echosonography laboratory in a hospital in Escuintla, Guatemala.