Why Innovation?

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During my first year as a cardiology attending, a young woman was referred to me for persistent palpitations despite repeated reassurances by another cardiologist that her symptoms were from anxiety, without doing an ECG or cardiac evaluation.

At her first visit, an ECG showed preexcitation and she had Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome. Her preexcitated QRS was evident – it was not a concealed pathway. This case was in 1990, and it was also the beginning of my journey to decrease health care disparity.

I offered her catheter ablation since radiofrequency ablation became available at Rush University Medical Center (the first in Chicago), making catheter ablation less barbaric than causing an explosion in the heart using direct current energy.

Innovation was essential to allow electrophysiologists from requiring the need for open heart surgery to ablate the accessory pathway or an extra AV nodal pathway to cure patients from their arrhythmias.

The "Why Innovation" section series is a brief write-up from ACC Health Care Innovation Section members to give readers a background of their professional journey, and explain the significance of innovation to their work and in the field.

Authors can include their personal definition of innovation, as well as tips or tricks on how to bring innovative ideas to the table in otherwise traditional settings and spaces.

It has been a long journey since then, but the innovation in our field continues to help so many of our patients to have better quality of lives without the need for invasive surgeries.

Innovation is not just about technology; it is a different method, idea or product to improve a situation. In 2001, it became apparent that increasingly more women were dying of cardiovascular disease, and doctors were not aware of this fact.

We decided to create a heart center for women to increase awareness that heart disease needed to be addressed in female patients. It was a multidisciplinary approach to heart disease, including physicians, nurse practitioners, dietitians and psychologists. We also added a geneticist, cardio-oncologist and cardio-cognitive neurologist, as these specialists became increasingly needed.

The heart center for women was an innovative approach to heart disease in women, leading to research and treatments specifically for this group. Since 2001, cardiovascular mortality in women has decreased, except in younger women ages 35 – 54 years. We need to be innovative once again.

Disparities exist not only in sex but also in race and ethnicity. Similar to women, black men and women have not benefitted as well as white men have from advances in cardiovascular disease. We need to continue to be creative and innovative in our approach to cardiac problems to help our patients live better and happier lives.

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This article was authored by Annabelle S. Volgman, MD, FACC, professor of medicine at the Rush College of Medicine, and medical director of the Rush Heart Center for Women in Chicago, IL.