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Globe-Trotting Cardiologist Facilitates “Gorgeous” Results

southafrica1For 10 weeks this year, Augusto Pichard, MD, was MIA. Instead of his usual presence in the Cardiac Catheterization Lab, Dr. Pichard was in the cath labs of seven South African University Hospitals. Dr. Pichard, senior consultant for Cardiac Innovation and Structural Disease for MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute, had a visiting professorship sponsored by the South African Society of Cardiovascular Intervention.

He instructed hundreds of doctors in a variety of strategies related to cardiac catheterization, with the aim of enhancing acute and long term results, as well as choosing the optimal revascularization approach for patients with coronary and/or valvular heart disease. Dr. Pichard was intent on guiding physicians through the steps of new technologies in the cath lab and transcatheter aortic valve replacement, or TAVR. Dr. Pichard was impressed by the quality of the facilities and the energy of his new colleagues.

“Their eagerness to do well and desire to learn was a most rewarding experience,” he says. There were also physicians in training from other African countries. Dr. Pichard was the fifth doctor to be selected for this prestigious opportunity from the South African Society of Cardiovascular Intervention, and was the only one to date who jumped in and performed procedures daily, alongside the South African physicians.

“The days were 11 to 12 hours long,” he says, “but I was happy to do it.” Dr. Pichard began each day with a morning conference, where cases were reviewed and discussed, and was quickly followed by work in the cath lab. Dr. Pichard gave a daily afternoon formal teaching conference, followed by dinner conferences, which were open to each city’s practicing and teaching cardiologists. This gave him the opportunity to meet more doctors, and explain his vision of the best approach to heart patients.

southafrica2He also discussed the improved outcomes of MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute’s (MHVI) quality assurance programs, including performance measures, appropriate use criteria, process improvement and implementation of practice guidelines. South African Society of Cardiovascular Intervention plans to start implementing these programs.

In a recent email to Dr. Pichard, Helmuth Weich, MD, of the Tygerberg Hospital in Cape Town wrote, “I can safely say that we have not had a visitor who had such a profound and lasting influence on the way we operate. Your legacy will last here, and more than with just the shouts of ‘gorgeous’ that I get, whenever something works out well.” Dr. Pichard believes the value of teaching the nuances of cath lab procedures was enhanced by his time spent with these doctors.

“Through these kinds of activities,” he says, “the good name of MHVI is being spread, and even more, our good work is being shared with those who want and need it. Because South Africa is the cardiology leader, these changes will benefit many patients throughout Africa.”