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Monument Health Heart & Vascular Institute, A New Home for the 'Heart Doctors'

Dec 22, 2020 07:00AM ● By Med Magazine

By Alex Strauss

From his corner office in the new Monument Health Heart and Vascular Institute at Rapid City Hospital,  Interventional cardiologist Drew Purdy, MD, can see a small building connected to the main hospital. It now serves as the Monument Health Infusion Center. But when it was constructed in the early 1990s, it was the first home for Purdy's original practice in the region, then referred to as the Heart Doctors.

"I could hit it with a pebble from my [new] office," Dr. Purdy says with a chuckle.

Purdy, a native of Mitchell, South Dakota, did his cardiovascular disease fellowship at Creighton. When he was invited by a fellow Creighton graduate to move to Rapid City in 1987, Purdy was surprised to be the first interventionist in the fledgling heart program. At the time, a pair of heart surgeons from Des Moines handled some of the local surgical cases. Others were shipped to Denver or Sioux Falls. 

"It was people on the staff at Regional Hospital that said 'Why are we sending these people out of town? We should be doing our own heart surgeries here'," recalls Purdy.

The program did get its own surgeon, followed by additional cardiologists. Samuel Durr, MD, a Chicago native, joined the program in 1988. 

"When we got here, there was nothing," says Dr. Durr, also an interventional cardiologist and graduate of the cardiovascular disease fellowship at Creighton. "They had a treadmill and a little cath lab in a radiology suite as big as a closet." 

But both Purdy and Durr saw great potential for heart care in the Black Hills. In 1993, the two left their multi-specialty practice and were among five cardiologists to establish Cardiology Associates, PC, The Heart Doctors, the region's first comprehensive cardiology practice. 

"It was challenging, to say the least," says Dr. Durr. "We were on call every other night for five years. We were the only interventional guys in town. It was a lot of work, exhaustion, family strife, etc. But it grew well because we did quality work." 

By 2006, the practice had built its own facility and implemented an electronic medical records system. Three years later, the Heart Doctors joined forces with Rapid City Regional Hospital to form a "heart hospital within the hospital" and in 2017, the Regional Heart Doctors officially became the Regional Health Heart and Vascular Institute.

Coming Home to the Hospital Campus

Today, the Monument Health Heart and Vascular Institute has 16 heart doctors, including two cardiothoracic surgeons. Two more cardiologists are contracted to join the group in 2021. The group also includes more than 20 advanced practices providers, four of whom are dedicated to cardiac surgery and one of whom is based in Spearfish. 

In September, they moved from their previous building a few blocks away from the hospital campus into the new addition to Rapid City Hospital -- an addition that clearly reflects the value that Monument places on the program. 

"When you walk in, it looks like a first class heart program," says Dr. Purdy. "It was built from the ground up to be a showcase. I think that is going to help us in the long run." 

Before the physicians and staff could even move into the new space, they had already outgrown it. The third and fourth floors of the new addition were designed to be home to HVI. Above it, on the fifth floor, architects had set aside vacant shell space for future needs. But the future arrived ahead of schedule and crews are currently converting the floor for additional HVI clinics and offices. It’s expected to open in the spring.

Another part of the new hospital addition is an inpatient wing designed for heart patients. Cardiologists and staff are now just a short walk away from their hospitalized patients. 

"The good thing is it is just easier and more efficient," says Dr. Durr. "You are able to see patients in the clinic and then easily go over to the hospital. It allows us to do much more with our day when we need to."

"Cardiologists and the hospital go hand-in-hand," says Dr. Purdy. "We can't do our work without a hospital. It makes sense to be here." 

Building for the Future

The new facility also makes sense from a recruitment standpoint. As some members of the team approach retirement age, the ability to attract skilled young doctors is critical. Durr and Purdy say the new building is part of that. But only part. Another important component is the quality of the physicians and staff and the scope of innovative services and technology available. 

"The growth of the anatomical structural heart disease program has been especially incredible," says Dr. Durr. 

He points to advances like the implantable Watchman device, an alternative to blood thinners for non-valvular AFib, and the mitral valve clip -- two of the newest advanced procedures now available at HVI. 

"When I started, we dabbled in everything because there were so few of us," says Dr. Purdy. "As things have expanded, we now look for people who can bring in some new technique or technology. We allow the people who are here to grow and do new things and we support their education so that we can know what the newest, latest things are." 

The Institute now encompasses four components: Heart and Vascular Clinic; Heart, Lung, and Vascular Surgery; Black Hills Cardiovascular Research; and Spearfish Cardiac Services Clinic. 

HVI cardiologists are board-certified in their specialties of cardiology, vascular medicine, cardiac and thoracic surgery, interventional cardiology, electrophysiology and more. The cardiovascular and vascular surgeons are experienced in both open and endovascular management of all conditions involving arteries and veins. 

To support their work, the new facility includes two cardiac and vascular surgical suites, two catheterization labs, an electrophysiology device lab and a hybrid suite with state-of-the-art imaging equipment, and a nationally accredited cardiovascular diagnostic laboratory. 

"We have been able to get many platinum awards from the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association," says Dr. Purdy. " It tells us that even though we are out here by ourselves, we practice good quality medicine that is the equal of any of these other big places."