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LMHS Announces New Center to Address Heart and Lung Disease

Lee Memorial Health System

Lee Memorial Health System recently announced the creation of a new innovation hub aimed at improving patient care, research opportunities, and education for patients and medical staff when it comes to the treatment of heart and lung disease. 

The Shipley Center for Cardiothoracic Surgery Innovation, Education and Research will be housed at HealthPark Hospital in Fort Myers.  The 10,000 square foot space will allow staff to expand on clinical education programs Lee Memorial Health System already provides, such as training in minimally invasive valve replacement techniques for surgical teams worldwide.  “Another teaching program to be formalized under this center is learning modules for nurses who care for heart and lung surgery patients and PAs (Physicians Assistants) who do vein harvest for bypass surgery,” said cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Paul DiGiorgi who is leading the center. 

“And this way, these nurses can come in and the PAs can come in and see how we do things, learn on simulators or models besides going to the operating room and observing it there and they come out much better prepared for taking care of patients.”

The Center will focus on pre-operative patient optimization, which involves working more intensively with patients before surgery to reduce the risk of complications. 

The Center will also take on a kind of public health initiative aimed at addressing behaviors that can contribute to heart and lung disease decades before they become a problem that would require surgery.  “We can turn around and really have an impact on people when we talk about bypass surgery,” said Dr. DiGiorgi. 

“It kind of hits home.  If you go to the doctor and they say, ‘Your blood pressure’s a little elevated,’ you don’t really know what that means in the long run until an open heart surgeon talks to you.”

For the innovation efforts of the center, Dr. DiGiorgi’s already establishing a partnership with Florida Gulf Coast University’s College of Engineering.

“When you see the college students, there’s a lot of enthusiasm when you talk to an engineering student about what happens in a heart operating room,” said Dr. DiGiorgi.  “I think that’s very exciting too, to really spurn their interest and show them what happens in the real world in the operating room and why the things they come up with are very important and what the needs are in the real world.”

The cardiothoracic surgery center is funded through a 2.5 million dollar gift from the Shipley Foundation, led by Sanibel Island resident Richard C. Shipley. While programs are already being developed, staff won’t be moving into the center’s physical space until 2017.