Photo: Lee Health
"You can treat insignificant cardiovascular disease through small interventions now, rather than open heart surgeries," says Adam de Jong.
Economic Backbone: Cardiac Care
Lee Health's vice president of cardiovascular services talks about trends, symptoms and access.
When Adam de Jong went to college, he initially thought he might choose a career in sports medicine. It took a class in human anatomy to change his mind.
“What continually interested me the most was learning about the cardiovascular system and the impact it has on the body and health,” he says.
Not sure if medical school would be for him, de Jong opted instead for a career in the business and management side of health care, where he could work with physicians and help create cardiology programs and coordinate cardiology services.
Now 51, and after 20 years of working in cardiology management, de Jong started work last September as Lee Health’s vice president of cardiovascular services. Before moving to Southwest Florida — he arrived just a few weeks before Hurricane Ian came ashore in Lee County — de Jong worked at the Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute in Charlotte, N.C, where he was an assistant vice president and oversaw cardiovascular services for five Atrium Health hospitals. Before that, he worked at health care facilities in Michigan, his home state.
- Trends: “The amount of technology and technological advances that have been introduced both on the pharmaceutical side and the treatment side in cath labs and operating rooms, it amazes me every day. You’re seeing life expectancies rise for patients with cardiovascular disease. You’re seeing a significant increase in treatment options. You can treat significant cardiovascular disease through small interventions now, rather than open heart surgeries. There is a lot of movement toward outpatient cardiovascular care, so you don’t spend as much time in the hospital. It used to be you could spend two weeks in the hospital following a heart attack, and now most patients following a heart attack are out in three to four days.”
- Prevention: “What’s increasingly going to be a focus is how can we prevent heart diseases from occurring. Family history plays a role in cardiovascular disease, but it doesn’t have to be the defining factor. Prevention includes lifestyle choices early in life — physical activity, eating the right diet, dealing with stress, taking care of your body. Also, once someone is identified as having minor disease, how can we intervene in their lifestyle to ensure that the disease doesn't progress and inhibit them down the line?”
- Recognizing Symptoms: “Along the lines of prevention, we’re also really looking at how the impact of cardiovascular disease impacts women versus men. How disease presents itself is so different between the two. When considering women in symptomology for cardiovascular disease, one thing is women tend to be the caregiver in the household, so they are less apt to seek care, and that tends to delay the diagnosis of cardiovascular disease. Secondly, when women present with symptoms, oftentimes their symptoms of cardiovascular disease are not your common chest pain, radiating-to-your-arms type of thing. It could be very minor pain not necessarily in the chest. It could be dizziness, things that don’t necessarily trigger a physician to think cardiovascular disease immediately. So, it becomes focused learning on how to identify cardiovascular disease in women when they don’t present with your typical symptoms.”
- Access: “The health care disparities that impact many areas of our community have to be addressed. We have to be very proactive in getting into the underserved communities that don’t have access to regular health care and preventive care. Ultimately, that can lead to more advanced disease. One of the things that is going to be a focus for us is access and really ensuring that those who need care are going to have the ability to get it without delay, and that’s going to happen through identifying areas where there are gaps in care. We are also going to work on education and providing the preventive aspect to the community through making our providers available at community events and other educational opportunities to ensure that knowledge gets out to the community, so community members can use those resources to improve their health.”
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