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Feature Article Good Sam Celebrates 20th Anniversary of First Heart Surgery

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Monday, March 14, marks the 20th anniversary of the first open heart surgery in Corvallis. Since that time, the field of cardiac surgery has seen many advances, and the Samaritan Heart & Vascular Institute at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center has kept up with them all.

“We are now taking care of patients with more complex medical conditions, and doing more complicated procedures,” said Samaritan Heart & Vascular Institute’s Mark Taylor, MD, who has been practicing in Corvallis for about 15 years. “We offer everything except heart transplant.”

On Sept. 11, 1994, an editorial in the Corvallis Gazette-Times proclaimed “Providing heart surgery in Corvallis will save lives.”

Before 1996, patients needing heart surgery were typically referred to Portland or Eugene. Once the decision was made to develop a program in Corvallis, planning took more than two years and involved attaining Certificate of Need approval from the State, recruiting and training staff and equipping an expanded operating room exclusively for cardiac surgery so it was available at all times.

Good Samaritan Hospital physicians and administrators worked diligently toward that goal and in 1996, Good Sam launched its Cardiovascular Surgery program in partnership with the Starr-Wood Group, a widely-recognized cardiac physicians and surgeons group based in Portland.

“The new service provided ready surgical treatment for heart attack patients and others who previously would have needed to travel to Eugene or Portland,” said Larry Mullins, DHA, President and CEO of Samaritan Health Services. “Cardiac surgery was a key element in Good Sam’s growing regional approach to health care.”

It had been projected that the hospital would provide about 150 cardiovascular surgeries per year during the first few years, but one year later the case volume was more than 250.

“Volumes were higher than anticipated,” Mullins said. “We had a great team, and they were up to the task.”

One member of that original team, Perfusionist Jim Humphreys, is still with Samaritan Heart & Vascular Institute. (A cardiovascular perfusionist uses a heart-lung machine during cardiac surgery and other surgeries that require cardiopulmonary bypass to keep the patient stable.) Humphreys trained with the Starr Wood Group before moving to Corvallis to help bring cardiac surgery to the mid-Willamette Valley.

“Opening a new program anywhere is a big deal,” Humphreys said. “It’s a little nerve wracking.”

Good Sam staff conducted mock surgical cases in the weeks leading up to the program launch and were ready for their first case.  They also participated in clinical training at Portland’s St. Vincent Hospital in conjunction with the Starr-Wood Group.

“It was a big day,” said Humphreys of the first case at Good Sam (which was completed successfully with a positive outcome). “Everyone was psyched up. We were all very excited to be a part of it. It’s a big deal to be able to offer this kind of quality care right here in our community.”

Samaritan Heart & Vascular Institute provides a wide range of advanced cardiology, cardiovascular surgery, cardiothoracic surgery and electrophysiology services to residents of Benton, Lincoln and Linn counties, and beyond. For more information, visit samhealth.org/SHVI or call 1-877-474-7484.

Advanced surgical procedures offered by Samaritan Heart & Vascular Institute include these procedures and more:

Mitral valve repair
Repair of the “inflow” valve of the left side of the heart

Complex aortic surgery, including aortic root replacement
Repair or replacement of a portion of the large blood vessel, the aorta, through which blood flows out of the heart, and of the valve between the heart and aorta

Pulmonary embolectomy 
Surgical removal of a blood clot in the lung’s main artery

Ventricular assist device 
Mechanical pump used to support heart function and blood during recovery from heart surgery

Electrophysiology 
Medical and surgical treatment of heart rhythm problems such as atrial fibrillation, flutter and bradycardia