Northwestern Memorial Hospital receives $10 million commitment to support preeminent heart program


Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute offers state-of-the-art treatments, technology and expertise

Northwestern Memorial Hospital today announced that Neil G. Bluhm, a prominent real estate developer, and his family have committed $10 million to the Northwestern Cardiovascular Institute, which has been renamed the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute of Northwestern Memorial Hospital. The Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute, which launched in April of 2004 with the arrival of renowned cardiothoracic surgeon Patrick McCarthy, MD, from The Cleveland Clinic, combines the areas of cardiology, cardiac surgery, vascular surgery, cardiovascular anesthesiology and radiology into one comprehensive cardiac center and aims to put Chicago on the map as home to a world-class comprehensive heart program.

"Neil Bluhm's generosity to our hospital will serve as a greater gift to people in Chicago and beyond who are looking for a premier center to provide state-of-the-art cardiac care," says Gary Mecklenburg, president and chief executive officer, Northwestern Memorial HealthCare. "Through Mr. Bluhm's philanthropy, we can continue to build our heart program as a destination for people requiring highly specialized care. In the past, many Chicagoans were leaving the state for their cardiac surgery. Not only are Chicagoans staying here now, we are also seeing people coming to Northwestern Memorial from other states as far away as Florida and California to have cardiac surgeries. That speaks volumes about what the team at the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute has accomplished in just nine months."

Neil Bluhm, president of JMB Realty Corp., and principal of Walton Street Capital LLC, is known for his leadership in the real estate community as well as for his commitment in time and support to a number of civic organizations throughout the city. He has been involved with Northwestern Memorial since 1995, and has served as director of the Northwestern Memorial Foundation Board since 2001. He has demonstrated many acts of generosity toward the hospital throughout the past 10 years. In 2000, he pledged $1 million for the new women's hospital He also committed $2.5 million in 2001, through the Lynn Sage Cancer Research Foundation, to establish the Bluhm Family Breast Cancer Early Detection and Prevention Program. For his generosity, Mr. Bluhm received the Distinguished Philanthropist Award in 2001.

This new commitment of $10 million is the largest for a single program in Northwestern Memorial's history. It is also among the largest gifts given to the hospital in the past 10 years.

"The time is right for Chicago to develop a state-the-art comprehensive heart care program that patients have previously left the city to find," says Mr. Bluhm. "I am proud to help support a team of elite specialists, enabling them to further advance a destination, highly specialized heart care center that will be amongst the best in the world."

The Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute is co-directed by Patrick McCarthy, MD, chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Northwestern Memorial and one of the country's most experienced cardiac surgeons in performing complex reconstructive operations in patients with heart failure, and internationally known cardiologist Robert Bonow, MD, chief of Cardiology at Northwestern Memorial and past president of the American Heart Association. The core infrastructure includes six centers: The Center for Heart Valve Disease, The Center for Heart Failure, The Center for Atrial Fibrillation, The Center for Coronary Disease, The Center for Vascular Disease and The Center for Women's Cardiovascular Health.

Institute gains momentum
In just over nine months, the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute has quickly gained momentum by taking on the most difficult surgical cases while maintaining extremely low mortality rates. Its physicians also hosted The Fall Education Series, which was the first in what will be a series of educational conferences to share knowledge with surgeons and cardiovascular specialists from around the country about the latest techniques and treatments.

"We are proud to support Drs. McCarthy and Bonow and their team in the development of a nationally-renowned heart program for Chicago," says Dean M. Harrison, president and chief executive officer, Northwestern Memorial Hospital. "Through their hard work, the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute has gained tremendous momentum since last April building six specialized centers."

Growth statistics for April of '04 through January of '05 compared to the same time period the year before include:

  • 77 percent increase in cardiac surgeries
  • 15 percent increase in cardiology outpatient visits
  • 10 percent increase in vascular surgeries

    "People in Chicago should know that we already have the infrastructure in place to manage any cardiac problem and within the next few months we will launch an LVAD (Left Ventricular Assist Device) program and re-launch the heart transplant program at Northwestern Memorial," says Dr. McCarthy. The LVAD is a mechanical pump that augments the function of the left ventricle, the heart's most critical pumping chamber. Recent studies have revealed that the LVAD may be useful as long-term therapy for heart failure, rather than just a temporary bridge to transplantation.

    Results rank among nation's best
    Since April, the hospital's risk of death for coronary artery bypass, and first time aortic and mitral valve surgery, has been zero. In comparison the country's average in-hospital mortality rate for aortic valve replacement is around 9 percent, with a 6 percent rate for high volume centers.

    Northwestern Memorial has long been known for providing highly specialized diagnostics and treatment in the area of cardiovascular disease, and is listed in U.S. News & World Report as one of the top 50 hospitals in the United States in treating heart disease. Solucient, a healthcare information and research firm, recently named Northwestern Memorial Hospital as one of the 100 top Cardiovascular Hospitals for 2004. It was also identified by Good Housekeeping as the only hospital in Illinois listed as a center of excellence in treating women with heart disease. "Our patient volumes in cardiology and cardiac procedures have been steadily growing over the past decade, and we have demonstrated particular excellence in cardiac imaging, coronary interventions and stent implantation, and treatment of heart rhythm disturbances," says Dr. Bonow. "Our vision to integrate cardiology, cardiac surgery and vascular surgery for better patient care, improved access and greater efficiency in operations, is well underway, and will allow us to move our program to an entirely new level of excellence."

    Customer service
    Since last April, patient satisfaction scores in cardiology have been among the highest seen at the hospital, for example exceeding 98 percent in the cath lab and electrophysiology. "I think these remarkable patient satisfaction scores reflect the combination of our long-standing Patients First philosophy along with our new ability to offer one-stop shopping our patients are no longer seeing a cardiologist here and considering going elsewhere for surgery," says Dr. Bonow.

    The Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute leadership is focused on developing a centralized telephone answering system for cardiac patients so that patients only have to speak to one person to schedule tests, visits and surgery. "A goal for us on the surgical side is improving patient satisfaction by reducing 'wait time' to get in for an appointment and making our system seamless for patients," says Dr. McCarthy.

    In addition, communication with referring physicians is a high priority. The goal is for physicians to make only one phone call to the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute to set the wheels in motion for their patients to come here. "We keep referring physicians informed and make sure they are an integral part of the process, continues Dr. McCarthy. We want to protect the patient's relationship with the referring physician."

    In March, the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute will begin providing a unique offering to patients post-surgically through the incorporation of a clinical psychologist to work on wellness management and address lifestyle issues, such as smoking cessation, diet, exercise and depression treatment.

    Top physicians and surgeons recruited
    About 30 clinicians and support staff have joined the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute within the past nine months. Recent additions to cardiac surgery include Thomas Gleason, MD, director of the Thoracic Aortic Surgery Program and Edwin McGee, MD, surgical director of Heart Transplantation. Several cardiologists have also been recruited, most notably John O'Connell, MD, who will arrive in March 2005 to direct the Center for Heart Failure within the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute. Dr. O'Connell, currently chairman of medicine at Wayne State University, has years of experience in treating patients with heart failure and in leading patient care and research teams. Additionally, Joseph Cytron, MD, and Robert Silverberg, MD, joined the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute to work directly with the surgical team to provide expert preoperative and postoperative cardiology care.

    "The staff additions we have made represent careful consideration of the needs of patients," explains Dr. Bonow. "We have expanded our already talented team with cardiologists and cardiac surgeons who bring specialized expertise gained at many other prestigious medical centers. Northwestern Memorial patients will truly benefit from a comprehensive team of physicians caring for their needs. We are continuing our recruitment of top cardiologists to join the program."

    Leading surgical advances
    New and pioneering surgical advances previously not available among Chicago hospitals are now offered and routinely performed at Northwestern Memorial many of them pioneered by Dr. McCarthy. Dr. McCarthy developed several products for heart valve repair and minimally invasive heart surgery. Also, Dr. McCarthy immediately brought a recent development in pain management to all cardiac surgery patients at Northwestern Memorial, making it one of the first hospitals in the country to implement the "pain relief pump."

    All cardiac surgery patients at Northwestern Memorial now benefit from this innovative pump dispense system used to treat pain specifically after heart surgery by delivering non-narcotic numbing medication directly to the surgical incision site. The result is less pain and narcotics use, shorter hospital stays and a quicker recovery.

    On December 17, 2004, Dr. McCarthy became the first surgeon in the United States to perform the revolutionary Maze procedure using high intensity focused ultrasound technology to cure a widespread cardiac rhythm disorder called atrial fibrillation (AF). This new procedure features the only energy source that allows surgeons to surgically cure AF while a patient's heart is beating rather than having to use a heart-lung bypass machine. Dr. McCarthy recently performed the surgery using minimally invasive techniques and a 10 centimeter incision, which could start a new era of minimally invasive procedures for the heart.

    Technology driven
    State-of-the-art cardiac technology is at the core of the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute. One example is that the surgeons repair rather than replace heart valves whenever feasible so patients do not require blood thinning medications that increase one's risk of stroke. This is demonstrated in that Northwestern Memorial skyrocketed from about 300th out of 350 heart programs in the Midwest to number two last quarter in the number of valve products used, according to Edwards Lifesciences.

    In May of 2004, Northwestern Memorial became the first hospital in the Midwest and the third in the nation to install the Siemens Medical Solutions' MAGNETOM Avanto - a revolutionary new magnetic resonance (MR) technology. This state-of-the-art scanner, which has become a major component of cardiac imaging at Northwestern Memorial, allows physicians to acquire more detailed images of the heart than previously possible and sets the stage to develop even faster, more far-reaching techniques for cardiac imaging. In addition, the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute will soon be one of the first hospitals in Chicago to have the fastest and most accurate diagnostic technology, called the 64-Slice CT, for imaging coronary arteries.

    The Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute team is also focused on improving not just early mortality for coronary artery bypass grafts, but also on improving 20-year outcomes. Recent studies demonstrate that bypass patients receiving mammary artery grafts (from the chest) are more resistant to a late failure and are more likely to offer long-term success than vein grafts (from the leg). More than 75 percent of patients get two or more mammary arterial grafts here versus 10-20 percent nationally. "These data mean our post coronary artery bypass patients are likely to live longer and have less need for repeat interventions like late stent or angioplasty," explains Dr. McCarthy.

    Leading research Northwestern Memorial Hospital through its affiliation with Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, is currently participating in about 50 clinical trials and is greatly expanding its clinical research infrastructure.

    Ongoing research in the clinical application of new drugs and devices, in the genetic basis of cardiovascular disease, and in the outcomes of all of the various treatments used assure that patients receive the latest and best treatment.

    Recently, Northwestern coordinated a large multi-center trial, which found that a significant number of patients with congestive heart failure should be treated with an implantable cardiac defibrillator for the primary prevention of sudden death. This study, directed by cardiologist Alan Kadish, MD, medical director of the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute's Clinical Trials Unit, was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Dr. Kadish and William Pearce, MD, chief of Vascular Surgery at Northwestern Memorial and president of the American Vascular Association, are associate directors of the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute.

    "In the near future, the clinical trials unit will investigate new ways to treat heart failure and to refine the use of implanted devices to prevent death from heart disease," says Dr. Kadish. "Studies are also underway to prevent sudden death."

    Source: Eurekalert & others

    Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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