Carle opens new Heart and Vascular Institute focused on cardiovascular care

Cardiologists at Carle Foundation Hospital’s Heart and Vascular Institute treated their first patient Sept. 9. The new institute will allow Carle to better serve Champaign- and Urbana-area patients with cardiovascular health issues.

The institute, which opened the first week of September, is located in Carle’s newly constructed nine-story patient tower, a 390,000-square-foot facility dedicated to improved medical attention.

“It was our goal to achieve a building where a patient could come and have the care for their cardiac and vascular illness or injury,” consolidating the cardiac units in one part of the hospital, said Lynn Ullestad, director of the institute.

Carle hired five new physicians, including four cardiologists and an invasive radiologist, for this addition to their facility, she said.

“This move furthers our ongoing commitment to extend our national-caliber heart program by bringing together experts and technology to achieve the best outcomes for our patients,” said Dr. Matthew Gibb, medical director of Carle Heart and Vascular Institute, in a press release. “The added resources will allow us to recruit top physicians bringing more advanced care to central Illinois.”

The staff consists of physicians with detailed specialty training in interpreting images and reading CAT scan images, a recent addition to the institute. The new CAT scan machine has cardiac software installed, and physicians on staff can reconstruct scans into 3D images to aid in diagnosis.

The institute also offers a nuclear medicine program and physicians that have advanced training in interpreting those images. Carle now offers transcatheter aortic valve replacement, or TAVR, which is an advanced treatment for patients that do not qualify for open heart surgery. The treatment helps alleviate symptoms of heart failure. Carle Heart and Vascular Institute is one of few in Illinois approved to offer TAVR.

Liz Southworth, vice president of the American Medical Student Association Pre-Medical chapter and senior in LAS, said she was in favor of the additions to Carle.

“The project is a good step for bringing medical care that is equivalent to that provided in a city to a more rural area that equally deserves advanced medical care,” she said.

The cardiovascular center stands alongside the neuroscience and intensive care units in the new tower. However, the hospital sees the Heart and Vascular Institute as a key component of the new structure.

Encompassing inpatient and outpatient cardiovascular services, the institute includes eight catheterization labs and the relocation of cardiac intensive care.

The foundational goal of the institute is to foster an environment for Carle and the University to better conduct transnational research with the addition of forward technology and equipment. Ullestad said that Carle has made a commitment to research in its strategic plan, striving to be a “top-tier, state-of-the-art institution.”

“I think that there is a great partnership established with the U of I and Carle already,” she said. “This would just give us a lot more opportunity to expose the U of I students to what is going on in health care — specifically cardiovascular.“

Southworth offers a student’s perspective of what she envisions the partnership to look like in the near future.

“With this new push toward the future I would really like to see some physicians at the hospital holding a lecture on campus about cardiovascular health and the new technologies that are to be offered,” Southworth said. She said she sees value in educating patients about the services Carle offers.

Although the institute is focused on treating patients, preventive care is still of value. Southworth said she suggests that Carle add an element of preventive education alongside its new institute.

“We’re all getting older and we’re all going to inevitably have these issues,” she said. “However, there are preventive measures that can be taken such as education about food, nutrition, and healthy lifestyles in general.”

Currently Carle has an education department, which holds community events, both education and pre-diagnostic on site. Ullestad said these events can determine if patients need additional care or if physicians can give them the assurance that they are on the right track with their preventive medicine.

“Once we’ve missed the opportunity to intervene in a pre-illness situation, then I think we need to be prepared to treat these patients as quickly in the most high tech environment as possible,” Ullestad said. “Carle is pretty wellness-focused.”

She said she predicts that the institute will positively influence the hospital.

“I’d like to see the heart and vascular institute be the premier provider for patients with any cardiovascular illness or injury,” she said.

Liz can be reached at [email protected]