Under the direction of Dr. Mo Imam, SIUH’s Heart Inst itute continues to make DRAMATIC st rides in the field of cardiac surgery

by Jessica Jones-Gorman • Photos BY Amessé Photography

For many high-risk heart valve patients, the introduction of the transcatheter aortic valve replacement to the field of cardiology several years ago was big news. The minimally invasive procedure, dubbed TAVR, not only shortened recovery periods, it also allowed many health-compromised patients to get the life-saving surgery they so desperately needed. Now that the surgical approach is being performed at Staten Island University Hospital (SIUH), the borough’s residents are benefiting from an elevated level of cardiac care.

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“It’s a complete game changer,” noted Dr. Mo Imam, chairman of cardiothoracic surgery and the executive director of The Heart Institute at SIUH, who has been working with Northwell Health since September to compile and train a team of six specialists who work together on each TAVR case.

“This is a very experienced team. Together we have a combined experience of about 500 TAVR cases,” Imam said. “It’s a very exciting innovation that allows surgeons to replace valves through a small incision in the groin instead of having to perform open-heart surgery, all done while the heart remains beating.”

It’s a major part of SIUH’s cutting-edge approach to cardiac surgery, which has earned the hospital international acclaim over the past decade. Not only did the hospital perform the first minimally invasive cardiac surgery/coronary artery bypass grafting (MICS/CABG), it also became home to the first and only dedicated MICS/CABG training program on the entire East Coast, and performed the world’s first minimally invasive triple bypass and minimally invasive aortic valve replacement. It was also the first hospital in the New York tristate area to perform cryoballoon ablation—which eliminates the need to use dangerous chemicals and extreme heat during catheter ablation.

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“The Heart Institute is one of the nation’s foremost cardiac care centers,” Imam said. “And we are constantly evolving. We recently restructured, placing a strong emphasis on a complete team approach. Every case is now discussed by a team of heart specialists, so you get multiple opinions on the proper mode of care, which is always best for the patient. It’s a multidisciplinary approach to heart care, which we feel provides the very best outcome.”

Since its opening in 2005, The Heart Institute has pioneered and then perfected a number of cutting-edge techniques and procedures across a range of cardiac services, including groundbreaking minimally invasive coronary bypass operations, heart valve repair/replacements, angioplasties, and cardiac catheterizations, as well as the implantation of cardiac assist devices.

For Dr. Imam, who grew up in Mumbai, India, and was admitted to medical school at the age of 17, SIUH and its highly acclaimed Heart Institute was the perfect location for him to continue making extensive strides in the field of cardiac surgery.

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“I think I always knew I wanted to be a heart surgeon,” he said. “It’s a field that is technically demanding and challenging, and I’ve just always felt that it is the most gratifying of all the surgical fields. People come in so sick—in many cases near death—and after one successful surgery, they are full of life the very next day. To be able to help patients live a longer and fuller life is gratifying.”

Imam came to the United States in 1991 as a research fellow at the University of Colorado, where he studied, among other things, Alzheimer’s disease, hepatitis C, and brain tumors. He then relocated to New York for his general surgery training and completed his cardiothoracic surgery training at the Tufts Medical Center in Boston. Prior to coming to SIUH, he was chief of cardiac surgery and director of the Heart Valve Center at Baptist Health Lexington in Kentucky.

In September 2016, Imam accepted the position with Northwell, where his areas of expertise—coronary bypass grafting, minimally invasive valve surgery, TAVR, surgery for irregular rhythm, mitral valve repair, minimally invasive aneurysm repair, and lung cancer surgery—blended seamlessly with those of other staff members.

“There are close to 100 people in the cardiothoracic department, including four surgeons, 10 physician assistants, and about 50 specialized nurses,” Imam explained. “It’s a very dedicated staff that makes patient care their top priority.”

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Under the executive director’s direction, the Heart Institute continues to maintain its world-renowned reputation for the management of cardiac and vascular disease— a stellar rating that the surgeon says will only grow in the future.

“I have always tried to be on the cutting edge of medicine while placing the utmost importance on patient safety and comfort,” he concluded. “And that is our goal for the future of The Heart Institute and cardiothoracic surgery here at Staten Island University Hospital. We want to provide patients with the most innovative procedures, those that will offer the most beneficial outcome.”

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The Heart Institute
475 Seaview Avenue (Heart Tower)
Located on the 3rd floor of Staten Island University Hospital North
718.226.1605 / theheartinstituteny.com