Sanford Health’s Heart & Vascular Center Announced in Bemidji


I’m Chris Anderson. I’m the head of
cardiology here in the Bemidji Sanford. I’ve been here nearly 25 years. I’ve seen this program grow from a
couple of general internists to four interventionalists, three nine interventionalists for
advanced practice providers and multiple support staff. I’ve also been here as
long as Dr. Watkins, who basically initiated the program
in 2011 and I’ve watched him, start from an angiogram a week to doing
almost a thousand procedures in our cath lab every month. The construction of a dedicated heart
and vascular center here in Bemidji is basically the pinnacle of my career. I had spent 25 years trying to get
local expertise here for our cardiac and vascular patients. This means that they will receive local
state of the art treatment without transferred to another facility. Providing cardiology care is the
reason I moved to the imaging. With the help of Sanford, we will continue to deliver
cardiac care in Northern Minnesota. We have a great bunch
of people working here. I’ve been the GE. It’s an honor to have a patient be sad
that they have to be transferred to another facility for an intervention
when they want to have it done here. You know, I remember 25 years ago when I was hired
here by Dr Clemenson and he and I were the only two people delivering cardiology
in Bemidji and we together decided that probably wouldn’t be feasible to
do an angiogram in Minnesota in Northern Minnesota, at least in Bemidji
when we hired Dr. Watkins, we saw this whole program
explode and I am proud, absolutely proud to be a Sanford member
of this new heart and vascular center that will be breaking
ground for this year. My name is Dr. Jeff Watkins. I began working here in January of 2011
I was brought here to help start this program. and I’ve been a cardiologist
for about 35 to 40 years. I had done cardiology services in many
different locations in the country prior to coming here, as
an interventionalist, both hired and in private solo practices. But this was something
new when Bemidji was
looking for a cardiologist. The advertisement was for somebody
to fill in at a clinic, at a resort community and,
uh, see what happened. So I came in not expecting to take any
call to just see people in the office. And within a few months
we were doing angiography. And carrying on the interest
that I’ve had in this is that, it allowed me, professionally
a new challenge. It wasn’t just practicing medicine. It was bringing that to four in a
location that hadn’t had it previously. So I was able to see that
birth, you might say, in that evolution and
development of a program, the new heart and vascular center we
hope to build sometime soon will, be a consolidation of what we’ve been
doing for the last several years. we will expand our capacity both
in personnel and in equipment. We’ll be able to see even more
people and handle more urgent issues. We’ve been doing 24, seven cardiology work since 2013
and that will of course continue, but we will be able to do this in a
streamlined more professional way. And I think we’ll be able to deal with
even more issues than we have today. The construction of this new center means
to me personally, a promise fulfilled. When I first came here,
there was talk about this. We talked about what
could we do in Bemidji. We attempted to do different things
with different parts of the building and there was always the thought that we’ll
build a heart center someday and finally it’s coming to fruition. So
I’m gratified to see that. I think it’s interesting to know that
the American heart association has for years, kept a registry of mortality rates
relative to acute heart attack. And in 2010, the death rate for M.I. or a
Beltrami County was in a dark red zone. The absolute worst. Now it’s
pink, much more like Rochester, much more like Minneapolis,
much more like Duluth. So we’ve made a major impact in the
community and I’m very pleased with that.

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