Expanding world class care at the Baptist Cardiac Institute

Pictured (l-r) are Sean Kramer, director of development for the Baptist Cardiac Vascular Institute; event hosts Hector and Monica Betancourt, Founders board member Karel Foti; and Dr. Barry Katzen

When Dr. Barry Katzen’s mother had a stroke 20 years ago, the use of blot clot dissolving drugs for the brain was in its infancy. Already a practicing physician, Katzen and his colleagues attempted an aggressive treatment to save her life, but to no avail. It was then that he decided there must be a better way to treat cardiac and vascular patients.

A Miami native and medical director of the Baptist Cardiac and Vascular Institute (BCVI), Katzen recently addressed an attentive audience during an informational forum at the home of Monica and Hector Betancourt in Coral Gables. Hosted by Baptist Health Foundation Founders Society members Karel and George Foti, the event was an opportunity to educate the community about the $60 million expansion project BCVI launched last fall. “There was early interest in using clot busters when my mother had a stroke, but very little familiarity,” said Katzen. “So I wound up treating her with my colleagues to try to do something which ultimately wasn’t successful. But I determined at that point that we are going to have a stroke program here that is innovative and will save lives.”

Although even as a kid growing up in his Miami Beach neighborhood Katzen knew he wanted to become a doctor, his mother’s case — and that of his father who passed away in his 50s as a result of cardio vascular disease — helped drive his dedication to the improved treatment of cardio and vascular disease. Since founding the BCVI in 1987, Katzen has been a pioneer for improved treatment of heart disease, stroke and related circulatory issues.

“When the institute was founded in 1987, it was extremely unique to integrate care around the entire body,” said Katzen. “At the time, stroke, heart disease and kidney problems were treated separately. Everyone was treating the same problem, just in different parts of the body. Because heart attack and limb loss and diabetes are very much related and dependent on the circulatory system, integrated treatment (such as ours) has now become standard practice.” Katzen enjoys being on the cutting edge of new treatments and innovation in health care.

“BCVI has become internationally recognized as one of the top 10 cardiac and vascular programs in the United States,” he said. “We recently noted our 1,000th treatment of abdominal aortic aneurysms. The first patient we treated was probably the fifth case in the country. Back in the early ’90s, if a patient had an aneurysm that was about to burst, they would be in the hospital for about 10 days and it would take three to four months to get back to normal. Today a patient with the same disease leaves the hospital in 24 to 48 hours and is back to work in a week or 10 days.”

The expansion campaign for the BCVI was officially launched with a sold out Celine Dion concert at the Fillmore Miami Beach on Dec. 16 that raised $6 million towards the expansion. Dion credits Katzen and the BCVI Institute for performing a cardiac procedure that saved the life of her husband, Rene Angelil.

With the sophistication of arts and culture in South Florida over the last 20 years, Katzen says medicine has similarly advanced and grown in sophistication. “It was our intention to become a world class facility back in 1987 and that is what we are trying to do; provide the best quality care as well as drive innovation through clinical research.

“As we look ahead to celebrate our 25th anniversary we are continuing to develop patient care around the hardening of the arteries. This affects the heart and the legs and the brain and creates a lot of death and disability in all of us. These kinds of dramatic changes and less invasive cardiac and vascular care extend the lives of patients in a simpler way.”

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