Our Stories: Ruth Simmons

Albany Medical Center, the first hospital in the region to provide mechanical heart pump implants for critically ill patients, is now the only hospital in the region to be recognized for the high quality of its implant program by The Joint Commission, the nation’s preeminent monitor of hospital quality.

Albany Med received Joint Commission certification for its ventricular assist device (VAD) heart pump implant program, one of only two New York hospitals outside of the New York City metropolitan area to receive this designation. Certification means Albany Med also meets the standards of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

“This certification is an important external stamp of approval that says we provide the highest quality care for the most critically ill heart patients and allows us to provide this option to more patients,” said Stuart Miller, MD, ’80, surgical director of Albany Med’s VAD program and the leading VAD surgeon in the region. “For some people, the VAD implant can be one of the only options for improving their quality of life, and we are pleased to be able to offer this to more patients who need it.”

The Heartmate II VAD device attaches to the heart and takes over the heart pumping function for patients with significant heart damage. While Albany Med had been limited to implanting VADs (also called LVADs, or left ventricular assist devices) only for patients awaiting transplant, the Joint Commission certification now allows the Medical Center to provide this therapy for all patients for whom it is appropriate.

“The Joint Commission certification affirms that we have met the most stringent tests for providing a comprehensive multidisciplinary approach that includes both implantation and follow-up care,” said Edward Bennett, MD, chief of the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery.

“The certification of our VAD program is an important recognition that allows us to offer even more options for patients as part of an exceptional heart failure and heart care program at Albany Med,” said Edward Philbin, MD, chief of the Division of Cardiology.

Mark Tallman, MD, ’90, a clinical assistant professor at Albany Medical College and Capital Cardiology Associates physician, played a significant role as lead cardiologist in implementing the VAD program.

“Albany Med is now able to provide the full range of services, from evaluation through, if needed, implantation and subsequent follow-up,” he said.