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SMH, Columbia Announce Partnership Results, Next Innovation in Cardiac Care

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SARASOTA, Fla. (Oct. 28, 2015) – Three years after partnering with the cardiothoracic surgery division of New York’s Columbia University Medical Center, Sarasota Memorial’s cardiac program is quickly outpacing the nation’s heart hospitals and setting record benchmarks in Columbia HeartSource’s network of hospitals for quality and patient outcomes.

Leaders from both organizations announced those achievements today while unveiling the next specialty targeted for growth.  

“Sarasota Memorial’s unprecedented growth while maintaining excellent patient and quality outcomes places it at the top of Columbia HeartSource’s network,” said Lawrence Beilis, MHA, Chief Financial and Administrative Officer for the Department of Surgery at Columbia University Medical Center and the Executive Director of Columbia HeartSource. 

“To achieve these kinds of results demonstrates not only organizational commitment but also a strong collaboration and respect among SMH’s surgeons and cardiologists.”

An outreach program of Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, Department of Surgery/Cardiothoracic Division, Columbia’s HeartSource team helps develop cardiovascular centers of excellence in community hospitals and expand local access to the latest innovations in cardiac care. SMH is one of more than 35 hospitals in the HeartSource network.

SMH Cardiac Team and David Verinder
At the news conference, Sarasota Memorial CEO David Verinder is flanked by our cardiac team from left: Tom Kelly, MD, Jeffrey Sell, MD, Paul Vesco, MD and Jonathan Hoffberger, MD. Not shown: Jonathan Fong, MD.

On Wednesday, SMH CEO David Verinder credited the recent achievements to the leadership of SMH’s Chief of Cardiovascular Surgery Jeffrey Sell, MD, and announced the hospital was expanding its affiliation to a field of cardiology that studies disturbances in the rate or rhythm of the heart's electrical system - Electrophysiology (EP).

The most common irregular heart rhythm disorder is atrial fibrillation, or A-fib, and affects more than 5 million Americans. People over age 40 have a one in four chance of developing A-fib in their lifetime, which increases their risk of stroke by 500 percent and can lead to heart failure, dementia and death.  Many are not aware they have it because a third of those affected show no outward symptoms. 

With support from the Sarasota Memorial Healthcare Foundation, the hospital has invested more than $2 million in recent years equipping its EP labs with the latest technology and assembled a top-notch team of electrophysiologists (cardiologists specializing in heart rhythm disorders or cardiac arrhythmias). The health system has committed an additional $8 million over the next 3 years to further expand and enhance its program. 

Through its affiliation with Sarasota Memorial, Columbia provides advanced training opportunities here and at Columbia in new techniques and technologies, as well as 24/7 availability of Columbia electrophysiologists and cardiac surgeons for case consultation, ongoing assessment of quality outcomes and research opportunities.

The additional resources, in turn, will help Sarasota Memorial attract and retain the highly specialized electrophysiologists needed to care for a growing number of patients affected by heart rhythm disorders in the community, Dr. Sell said.

Hospitalizations due to rhythm disorders have increased 14 to 20 percent over the last 4 years at SMH, with conditions that range from minor palpitations that cause lightheadedness to life-threatening disorders like ventricular tachycardia. Sarasota Memorial’s EP specialists help manage the condition with medications and electrical cardioversion (pacemakers and internal cardiac defibrillators) and provide more advanced treatments, including catheter ablation and surgical maze procedures to cure the condition. 

“The good news is that advances in heart mapping and studies of the heart’s electrical system are yielding innovative and minimally invasive treatments that can cure arrhythmias so that no further medication and treatments are needed,” Dr. Sell said.

About Sarasota Memorial Health Care System: Sarasota Memorial is an 819-bed regional medical center, is among the largest public health systems in Florida. With about 4,000 staff, over 800 physicians and 1,000 volunteers, it is one of Sarasota County's largest employers. A community hospital founded in 1925 and governed by the 9-member publicly elected Sarasota County Public Hospital Board, Sarasota Memorial is a not-for-profit health system with specialized expertise in heart, vascular, cancer, and neuroscience care, as well as a network of outpatient centers offering a full continuum of services – from urgent care clinics and physician groups, laboratory and diagnostic imaging centers, to home health and skilled nursing & rehabilitation. For information, visit:


About Columbia University Medical Center/College of Physicians and Surgeons: Columbia University Medical Center provides international leadership in basic, pre-clinical, and clinical research; in medical and health sciences education; and in patient care. The medical center trains future leaders and includes the dedicated work of many physicians, scientists, public health professionals, dentists, and nurses at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, the Mailman School of Public Health, the College of Dental Medicine, the School of Nursing, the biomedical departments of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and allied research centers and institutions. Established in 1767, Columbia's College of Physicians and Surgeons was the first institution in the country to grant the M.D. degree and is among the most selective medical schools in the country. Columbia University Medical Center is home to the largest medical research enterprise in New York City and State and one of the largest in the United States. For information, visit

Media Contact: Kim Savage, (941) 917-6271

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