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SLUCare Specialists Take On Women's Heart Disease


SLUCare heart patients Mary Cagle and daughter Kim UrbanPictured: SLUCare heart patients Mary Cagle and daughter Kim Urban

Collaborative Approach Streamlines Patient Care

Heart disease, the leading cause of death for American women, claims nearly 500,000 lives each year — about double the number of deaths caused by all cancers combined. SLUCare Physician Group has assembled a team that treats all phases of cardiac disease. It's part of the Center for Comprehensive Cardiovascular Care at SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital, which combines specialists from the traditionally separate areas of general cardiology and cardiac surgery.

"At the Center, experts from both fields can talk with patients at the same time, if need be, instead of bouncing patients from clinic to clinic," explains SLUCare cardiac surgeon Dr. Dawn Hui, assistant professor of surgery at Saint Louis University School of Medicine. About 40 percent of our cardiac surgery patients are women, and they appreciate this collaborative approach." It's less stressful for patients and families — and easier for doctors to review patient information with each other, she notes. "I focus on diseases of the aorta and aortic valve, which can have a genetic component. Before I send a patient's family members to SLUCare cardiologist Dr. Lisa Alderson for screening and treatment, I can discuss their history and risk factors with her."

Alderson, assistant professor of cardiology at SLU School of Medicine, says women often feel more at ease with a female doctor. "Women with heart problems don't always have the same symptoms as men, so heart attacks can go undetected until it's too late," she says. "A female doctor knows the right questions to ask, and understands the stresses in women's lives that can lead to heart issues." Some women acquire heart disease along the way; others are born with heart defects, Alderson's specialty. "Today, pediatric cardiologists can save many infants with congenital defects, but they often have issues as adults that require a lifetime of careful management," she says.

Alderson is among the first to seek board certification in this growing field, recently recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties. Kim Urban, a 38-year-old mother of two, was born with an atrial septal defect, a hole in her heart that can result in heart failure. "I felt fatigued, my heart would race and I would sometimes pass out," she says. After the hole was repaired, she still had ongoing problems caused by the defect. "But since I've been seeing Dr. Alderson, I've never felt better," she says. "She regulates my medications and makes sure I'm OK. She's so caring and easy to talk to, I even referred my mom to her!"

Urban's mom, 63-year-old Mary Cagle, recently was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, an irregular heart rhythm that can lead to strokes. "I was scared to death when my heart would speed up and skip beats," she recalls. After thorough testing, a noninvasive procedure to regulate her heart beat and the right meds, she's healthy. "It's such a relief," she says. "I'd always been leery of doctors, but the SLUCare team changed my mind. Kim and I are in good hands."

SLUCare Physician Group's cardiac team practices at SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital and at University Tower on Brentwood Boulevard. For more information, call 314-977-4440.

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This article originally appeared in Town & Style.

By: Tony Di Martino