Time Is of the Essence

With its new accreditation, Baptist Health Lexington brings unparalleled access to cardiac care

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LEXINGTON Growing up in Karachi, Pakistan, Azhar Aslam, MD, found he was drawn toward the medical field from a very young age. “As I kept going through school, high school and then college, the pre-medical subjects in biology always interested me more than mathematics or any other things. I was fascinated by it and decided to go into medicine. I always found cardiology more interesting, more challenging. I developed a serious interest in it during my residency training,” says Aslam. He pursued that interest and now serves as an interventional cardiologist at Baptist Health Lexington.

“The future of cardiac care really lies in improving our preventative care. Stopping the heart attack before it ever happens.”— Azhar Aslam, MD

Aslam moved to the U.S. in 1991, after graduating from the Dow Medical College. He then completed his medical training at St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester, Massachusetts, a hospital affiliated with the University of Massachusetts. A three-year residency in internal medicine and a three-year cardiology fellowship followed. Aslam then went on to do an advanced training fellowship in interventional cardiology.

Upon completing his training, Aslam chose to stay in the United States. He realized certain areas were suffering from a physician shortage and he could help these communities. He spent the next five years practicing at Knox County Hospital and Baptist Health Corbin. It was there that he became even further fascinated by the ever-changing subspecialty of interventional cardiology. “The future of interventional cardiology is very exciting, but on the other side, it is also very challenging. There are newer and newer procedures being introduced, and cardiologists who trained fifteen years or so ago have to keep up with the newer technologies and the newer procedures.”

Inspired by these innovations, Aslam opted to home in on interventional cardiology and joined Baptist Health Lexington, one of the most prominent facilities in the field. In 2018, the American College of Cardiology recognized Baptist Health Lexington with Chest Pain Center Accreditation with Primary PCI & Resuscitation, making it the second hospital in Kentucky, and the only hospital in the region, to hold this accreditation. Previously, the hospital had been accredited as a Chest Pain Center with twenty-four-hour access to percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI).

“We take pride in knowing that the care that you get in Lexington, Kentucky is no different than care you might get in New York or L.A., or Seattle, for that matter.”— Azhar Aslam, MD

Accreditation for resuscitation is based on rigorous on-site evaluation of the staff’s ability to evaluate and treat patients who have presented with sudden cardiac arrest.

In addition, as required to meet the criteria of the accreditation designation, Baptist Health has a hypothermia program and other methods of resuscitation for post-cardiac arrest treatment. Speed of intervention is one of the biggest indicators of a positive outcome.

At Baptist Health Lexington, Aslam is a member of the Heart Team, a cutting-edge concept designed to improve the efficiency of cardiac care. “If a patient is about to have a heart attack, or if they are actually having a heart attack, then the catheterization lab team is activated, the cardiologists are involved immediately, and the care is expedited. In those types of situations, we are literally watching our clock. No matter what time of day you show up, or what time of the year it is, you’re going to get the same top-quality care.”

The central focus on gaining accreditations and making advancements is to ensure patients have the best possible outcome during a cardiac episode. “Our mission is patient first, and we want to deliver the best possible care to our patients. We went this route because we feel that it’s a game changer assuring that all of our patients will get top-quality care. We require on-call staff to be in the cath lab in thirty minutes, and so from the time the cath lab is activated to the time that they are ready to treat the patient, it can be no longer than thirty minutes. They have to live close to the hospital and, when they’re on-call, they have to make themselves available,” says Aslam.

But, naturally, prevention is an even more desirable option, and that is where Aslam’s attention is centered. “The future of cardiac care really lies in improving our preventative care. Stopping the heart attack before it ever happens. The scope of my practice is taking care of all general cardiac problems with a special interest and expertise in interventional cardiology, which includes catheter-based procedures, angioplasty, stenting, and certain structural repair procedures including repair of the heart valves.”

Aslam continues, “What is in it for us? The satisfaction of knowing that we’re doing the best that we can for our patients. We take pride in knowing that the care that you get in Lexington, Kentucky is no different than the care you might get in New York or L.A., or Seattle, for that matter.”