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Tue, Oct. 15

Home is where the Heart Center is

Dr. Pierre Tibi, right, looks at paperwork at the YRMC’s new Heart Center.

Courtesy Dr. Pierre Tibi, right, looks at paperwork at the YRMC’s new Heart Center.

People with heart problems in the tri-city area no longer need to go to Phoenix for heart surgery: The Heart Center at Yavapai Regional Medical Center West is open after years of planning and preparation.

"There's the convenience issue, but more importantly, this new Heart Center will save lives," said Dr. Pierre Tibi, a heart and lung surgery specialist who designed and planned the new heart center. "With patients needing emergency cardiac treatment, we can help them much faster, now, and in those cases time is of the essence."

Tibi has a laundry list of accomplishments and commendations for his work in heart surgery. He was the president of the American Heart Association from 2002 to 2003, and he was a founder of the Phoenix Cardiac Surgery group that created heart surgery programs in Yuma, Lake Havasu City, Kingman and now Prescott.

"I performed my first open heart surgery here Aug. 2," said Tibi. "I finished my 16th (Oct. 4). We've put a lot of time and effort into making sure everything was perfect before we began."

The Heart Center was the result of years of effort, according to Robbie Nicol, YRMC's director of community relations.

"We started planning for this back in the 1990s," said Nicol. "We began introducing more and more

cardiac services gradually over time. We had everything but actual open heart surgery available here, and now that we have that, it's truly a comprehensive heart center, with the full range of services."

Nicol said the center treats heart patients at each and every stage of their ailment, from early detection to recovery from surgery. Those services include diagnosis, preventative medicine, rehabilitation treatment, and programs promoting healthier living.

"I think it's going to be very beneficial to have this surgery available closer to home," Nicol said. "Making a long trip, on top of the dealing with surgery itself just adds to the stress. My husband, Jerry Kohler, had heart disease, and we had to go to Phoenix for surgery. He was able to have his cardiac rehabilitation here, and that made things a lot easier for us."

Tim Barnett, the CEO for YRMC East and West, said the center took the project seriously, and put a great deal of time and money into preparing for it. "This has been a step-by-step process, and having our heart center open is the crowning achievement," said Barnett. "We put this together to provide the best quality of cardiac care for our patients in this region. We've had a lot of people asking how we got such talent for our center. We simply spared no expense to get the best."

Before coming to work at the Heart Center at YRMC, Tibi was the chief of cardiac surgery at Banner Desert Samaritan Hospital. During his time there, US News and World Report voted the hospital's heart program No. 20 in the country, and No. 1 among non-academic centers.

"Usually, when we set up a program like this, we hire someone from outside to manage it, but I came up myself to handle this," said Tibi. "It's a big change of pace for me. In Phoenix, I'd do 300 to 350 open heart surgeries each year. It was a very fast-paced environment. Now, I have more time to spend with each patient, and really apply myself to the development of the program."

Barnett said that all the planning, hard work and dedication that went into creating the Heart Center was well worth it because of the lives it will affect in the community.

"With some cases, there's a window of opportunity, a golden hour where, literally, peoples' lives hinge on minutes, seconds of activity," said Barnett. "The ability to have state-of-the-art cardiac services nearby supports those people. I continue to hear how people with heart conditions in the community are supportive of this. It gives them a great sense of confidence and relief, and the ability to live safely here, in the most beautiful place on earth."

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