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Sarasota Memorial Joins Forces With Columbia University

The affiliation will give SMH access to latest trials and technology for cardiac surgery and intervention.

Hearts across Sarasota got some extra protection on Thursday as Sarasota Memorial Hospital announced a collaboration with Columbia University Medical Center's cardiovascular program that will bring the very latest advances in heart care to Southwest Florida.

"Because we are a recognized community hospital, but we are not an academic hospital, we’ve had some limitations in further advancing technology in our own community," said Dr. Ricardo Yaryura, medical director of SMH's cardiology services. "Sometimes we can not get some of the trials and devices in development for our patients due to lack of that affiliation with a university setting."

Yet with the partnership, Sarasota physicians will be able to train at Columbia and bring new techniques and technology to the area, as well as participate in clinical trials and consult with Columbia experts.

Taking a cue from its new partner, SMH will open a hybrid operating room with a cardiac catherization lab fashioned after those developed at Columbia. Doctors will be able to work on patients' hearts simultaneously rather than scheduling multiple treatments, creating a more all-inclusive approach to treating heart patients.

SMH will also open an aortic valve clinic, providing treatments perfected at Columbia such as replacing or repairing valves without surgery. This new technique may be able to treat elderly patients with advanced valve disease who were not candidates for a rigorous surgical procedure.

"We believe based on what we’ve seen and heard, that this group is uniquely qualified in this area to actually pick up this technology and run with it," Dr. Michael Argenziano, Columbia's section chief of adult cardiac surgery, said about the decision to partner with SMH. "Our goal is to provide some of the fire power and some of the access to limited clinical technology so that these physicians can bring this medical center really above the rest in terms of what can be offered."

According to Dr. James Fox, chairman of SMH's cardiology department, SMH had been researching an academic hospital to partner with for a few years. "We looked at a number of different programs and conducting interviews," he said. "Ultimately we believe Columbia offered us best fit for what we had. When they get their name involved with something, they’re very careful at making certain it’s done extremely well. That’s the type of approach we were looking for. A real partner."

Yaryura called the collaboration "a dream come true." "I get to have my private practice and I’ll get some of that academia support in advancement in technology and training through [Columbia's] experts," he said.

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