Cardiology team expands to meet community need |

Cardiology team expands to meet community need

Mary Beth TeSelle
Special to The Union

Despite an increase in public education and awareness efforts, heart disease continues to be the leading cause of death among adults in the US. In fact, the American Heart Association estimates that by 2035 45 percent of Americans will have at least one health issue related to heart disease – an increase of five percent over the 2030 projection.

Here in Nevada County, the impact of heart disease is no different. The need for cardiology care is high.

Suzanne Belew, Manager of Cardiopulmonary Services at Dignity Health Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital, says that our region’s large number of retirees and aging population have presented challenges to those providing cardiology care to the community.

“Until recently, Dr. Ryan Smith [cardiologist and medical director of the SNMH cardiology lab] had quite a busy schedule,” Belew explains. “For more than seven years he was responsible for a large outpatient clinic and was the only SNMH cardiologist on staff.”

Belew says this was not only difficult for Dr. Smith, it left many local residents in need of cardiology care feeling that they needed to travel out of the area for services.

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“Fortunately, within the past year, our efforts to recruit additional cardiologists to the area have paid off with two new physicians joining Dr. Smith full-time,” says Belew. “In addition, another physician provides care seven days a month.”

Dr. Anabel Facemire relocated to Grass Valley from Walla Walla, Washington and Dr. N. Rohde Woodruff from Midland, Michigan. Dr. Robert Zucker, from Southern California joins the team seven days a month, allowing the cardiologists more office time in their local clinics.

As a semi-rural hospital with its own ambulance system, SNMH sees a wide variety of cardiology conditions. This may include patients admitted to the emergency department with cardiac arrest; congestive heart failure; symptoms of chest pain or discomfort; racing or slowing heart rate; shortness of breath; lightheadedness; fainting; or dizziness.

The SNMH cardiology department offers a full spectrum of clinical services and diagnostic testing, including EKGs; resting and stress echocardiography; short- and long-term heart monitoring devices; exercise stress tests; nuclear stress tests; tilt table tests; and transesophageal echocardiogram. Belew says plans for a pacemaker clinic are currently in progress.

“Our cardiology diagnostic lab is the only accredited echocardiography lab in the local area,” says Belew. “We have the same state-of-the-art imaging equipment and technology found in larger hospitals. In addition, because we are part of the Dignity Health organization, we are able to consult with other cardiologists. Patients who require advanced interventional treatment are transported to our affiliated Dignity hospitals in Sacramento.”

Belew believes the addition of more cardiologists is crucial to meeting the needs of the community.

“Patients no longer need to travel to other communities to see a cardiologist,” she says. “Scheduling for cardiology clinic and hospital diagnostic testing is now faster. SNMH had been actively recruiting cardiologists for more than ten years. Cardiologists are highly sought after. We are very fortunate to now have a full team of cardiologists caring for our community.”

Belew says both Drs. Facemire and Woodruff were drawn to living and working in a small-town atmosphere. And professionally, the opportunities available at SNMH were appealing.

“Dr. Woodruff enjoys a close association with his subspecialty partners at Dignity Health Sacramento,” says Belew. “He is also interested in initiating a pacemaker program at SNMH. Dr. Facemire has a particular interest in the latest evidence-based medicine, bolstered by teaching the benefits of nutrition, exercise, stress management and spiritual support. She is also very supportive of the cardiac rehabilitation program at SNMH.”

Belew believes the newly expanded cardiology team is one more example of SNMH’s commitment to meeting the health care needs of the community.

“At SNMH our cardiologists and dedicated staff are proud to deliver the highest quality of care to our friends, neighbors and family members, who are also our patients,” Belew says.

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