Wolfson begins new partnership to better mend broken hearts

Wolfson begins new partnership to better mend broken hearts
Dr. Michael Shillingford, chief of Pediatric Cardiothoracic Surgery at Wolfson Children’s Hospital, with Wolfson President Michael D. Aubin, Dr. Jose A. Ettedgui, Thabata Batchelor, assistant administrator – operations for Wolfson Children’s Hospital, and Dr. Jerry Bridgham, Wolfson Children’s Hospital chief medical officer.

Thanks to a new partnership with the sixth-ranked pediatric cardiology and heart surgery program in the country, Wolfson Children’s Hospital expects to do an even better job caring for children with congenital heart disease in Northeast Florida and South Georgia.

As of Dec. 15, 2018, Wolfson’s pediatric cardiac care program began a new academic affiliation with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Children’s Hospital, a program that was ranked No. 6 in the nation by U.S. News and World Report.

“For decades, our Terry Heart Center at Wolfson Children’s Hospital has served children with congenital heart disease from throughout the region and has had patient outcomes that are equal to or better than the national benchmarks tracked by the Society for Thoracic Surgeons,” said Wolfson President Michael Aubin, a San Marco resident. “With the growing population in North Florida, South Georgia and southern Alabama, as well as ever-advancing heart diagnostic capabilities, we are diagnosing and treating a higher incidence of congenital heart disease among the nearly one million children who live in the region we serve.

“We recognized that we needed additional pediatric cardiac surgery resources and expertise to make our care even better. That’s why we chose to become a member of UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh’s Heart Institute Network,” he said.

Wolfson is the second Florida hospital to join the UMPC Heart Institute Network. St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital in Tampa is also a member. The network is led by Dr. Victor Morell, who is not only chief of the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery at UMPC but also co-director of the Heart Institute of UMPC Children’s Hospital.

The affiliation means that Wolfson doctors can collaborate with those at St. Joseph’s and UMPC on difficult cases through videoconferencing, providing complex pediatric cardiac care through remote and virtual examinations, or by having Wolfson doctors fly to Pittsburgh to observe new techniques and assist with complicated operations. Morell also plans to travel to Jacksonville often to work alongside Dr. Michael Shillingford, a San Marco resident who is chief of Pediatric Cardiothoracic Surgery at Wolfson, and Dr. Harma Trabendian, a pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon at Wolfson.

“There are very few fields that require the collaboration between physicians and surgeons like congenital heart disease,” said Dr. Jose Ettedgui, Glenn Chuck Professor of Pediatric Surgery at the University of Florida School of Medicine in Jacksonville, chief, Division of Pediatric Cardiology at Wolfson, and Riverside resident. “It’s a very specialized field that requires a high level of expertise from both sides. For us to have access to a premium level of cardiac surgery for our patients is phenomenal.”

Jasmine and Curtis Dvorak with son Dax and Dr. Michael Shillingford, chief of Pediatric Cardiothoracic Surgery at Wolfson Children’s Hospital.
Jasmine and Curtis Dvorak with son Dax and Dr. Michael Shillingford, chief of Pediatric Cardiothoracic Surgery at Wolfson Children’s Hospital.

Seven-month-old Dax Dvorak is proof the collaboration has been successful. The happy bouncy baby joined his parents, Curtis and Jasmine Dvorak of Springfield, at a Baptist press conference announcing the new affiliation. “Dax has an interesting congenital cardiac defect. For every million people there are 100 congenital heart defects that warrant cardiac surgery. Dax has a complete canal-type defect. We did the operation together with Dr. Victor Morell, who came to Jacksonville to do it,” Shillingford said, adding that because of the success of his operation, Dax will be able to participate in sports, enjoy his friends and “run around” to his heart’s content as he grows up.

“I think the affiliation will take our program to a different level,” said Dr. Jerry Bridgham, chief medical officer at Wolfson Children’s Hospital. “The volume and the experience they have up in Pittsburgh they will bring to Wolfson to enhance our program. They have so many protocols in place that really enhance the care of kids that they will share with us,” he said, noting there is an advantage in numbers. Pittsburgh tackles approximately 600 cardiac cases per year while Wolfson only does 225 and St. Joseph’s 225-250, he said. “Between the three sites, we will have well over 1,000 cases per year. The adage is, if you do more of something, you get better at it,” Bridgham said. 

“Wolfson has an outstanding program. It has been a leader in pediatric cardiovascular care for many years in Florida,” said Morell, who added the collaboration will also serve Pittsburgh well because it will double the number of patients that contribute to its research. “We are a much larger program, and we can help them achieve a level of success they haven’t achieved yet. I think we can get Wolfson to an elite level. From our end, we are extremely excited about the venture and about the future of Wolfson Children’s Hospital.”

By Marcia Hodgson
Resident Community News

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