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Published on March 18, 2021

Q&A with Dr. Thomas Stuckey, co-founder and medical director of the LeBauer-Brodie Center for Cardiovascular Research and Education, and Arthur Samet, chairman and CEO of the Samet Corporation.

Stuckey and Samet video call

On innovation in heart and vascular care

Already an innovator in heart and vascular care, Cone Health is pursuing a three- to five-year plan for a new Heart & Vascular Center. Thanks to a gift from Dr. Thomas and Diana Stuckey, along with contributions from other Heart & Vascular Board members, we are able to move forward now on a Heart & Vascular Innovation Room that will provide the space to plan better for the new center and to carry out new technologies that make Cone Health a leader. The Heart & Vascular Innovation Room will be up and running spring 2021.

How will the new Innovation Room allow Cone Health to pave the way for outstanding patient outcomes?

Stuckey: Heart and vascular care is a “team sport” now with more team-based decision-making. The Innovation Room will be a multipurpose facility that will allow us to accomplish many goals around innovation in heart health. One example is heart valve replacement, which used to involve taking a patient to the operating room and opening the chest. Now we have a process by which the valve can be put on a balloon catheter and taken from the groin — but this requires a team effort: the surgeon, an interventional cardiologist and high-level imaging. We have team meetings to plan out the whole procedure. We are also plotting out innovative research trials and need multiple boards to show everybody what will be involved as we plan a novel strategy. Plus, we will be able to use this space as we plan a new Heart & Vascular Center and bring together the right people to help us strategize effectively.

Whose idea was it to add an Innovation Room to the current Heart & Vascular Center?

Stuckey: We are reinventing heart care in a big way with the addition of Ruth Fisher. Ruth is a nationally known cardiology administrator. She has built two to three major programs, and she said we need an innovation room. She is a big asset to Greensboro. When you get a transformational leader like that, you realize what it makes possible for a community like ours and you want to enable them as much as possible.

And to make it possible you need trusted partners to see your vision through to fruition.

Stuckey: We do. With Ruth Fisher on board, we are pushing to collaborate even more with our community partners and joint venturing a lot of projects. Integrating the health system with the community and with our community partners is critical. Arthur and his team are vital partners in this project. The Samet family, along with others like the LeBauers,  have transformed the community to be a better place.

Arthur, you’ve said your approach is always to “do well and do good.” What fuels your passion for helping construct a space like the Innovation Room?

Samet: Community-based iconic projects that serve a greater need really get us excited. We believe in economic development in a lot of different forms — through philanthropy, good business practices and having an available property for growth. With every project, we want to create something of significance and not just enhance our community, but differentiate it. Providing a high level of health care is critical to recruiting new industry and supporting our existing industry. When we heard about the Innovation Room, we were interested in contributing our skill, which is just as valuable as our checkbook. We can help keep costs down and contribute to an outstanding facility.

Dr. Stuckey, you and your wife, Diana, have contributed $150k to this project. Why?

Stuckey: They asked for somebody to get this started and my wife and I felt this was the right way for us to make an impact. Bruce Brodie [retired Cone Health cardiologist and international pioneer in heart attack treatment] and I started the research foundation [LeBauer-Brodie Center for Cardiovascular Research and Education] in the early ‘90s and our hope always was that Cone Health would be seen as an innovator in heart care. This is the next phase of that.

Why seek to be innovative? How do you want to move the needle in heart care?

Stuckey: The care for our community is better when we are innovative and when we are leading, not following other places three to five years later. We recruit great talent and have a vision directed toward innovation. There is no reason why we shouldn’t be better than the rest of the state and beyond. We can do that, but it takes a lot of team-based effort. Our goal as an innovator is to bring early based therapies to our community before others have access to them.

How is Cone Health already ahead of other health systems?

Stuckey: With Jake Hochrein [Chief of Cone Health Medical Group HeartCare and of the Cone Health Cardiovascular Service Line] at the helm, and with Terry Akin’s leadership, we’ve moved the system farther in the direction of value-based health care. The focus is on keeping the population healthy. Other than Sanger Clinic in Charlotte, we are ahead in the state and nationally in the use of CT scanning to look at the heart arteries, which is much easier, cheaper and less invasive. We are also ahead on certain research tools; we have a new drug similar to vaccines that is injected once every six months and it lowers cholesterol by 60 percent. Having ideas like that can transform the health of the community. These are the kinds of strategies innovation brings if you are intentional about trying to develop a health system and service line that is more directed to comprehensive care and prevention.

Samet: That whole team has been at the community’s service for so long and they’ve been leaders in cardio care. Growing up in Greensboro, I thought every community had access to these great doctors. Then you go somewhere else and you realize how fortunate we are to have this core base of incredible talent in our community. You know you are in great hands and that you are getting the best care. We don’t want to lose that momentum and we want to make sure we don’t have a void behind them. When you have a great health system, you attract great business to the area. We need to make sure we have the resources and the top talent in the community for the current time and for the future. So we must continually reinvent and reinvest and make sure we are relevant in today’s environment.

Stuckey: We want to do everything we can do to enhance that potential. With the right leadership in place, we can do anything. We can rally together as a championship team to accomplish a great deal of important things, and we have all of the building blocks in place to make that happen. I am excited about the future. I wouldn’t be investing money if I didn’t think that — and I am very confident that we can get there.

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