Comprehensive Local Resource for Heart Care Tied to OHSU
As Dr. David Guarraia recounts the story of one recent patient, it quickly
becomes apparent how important a resource the MCMC Cardiology clinic has
become for Gorge-area residents with heart-related conditions.
Recently, after reading the results of a stress echocardiography test given
to a local patient complaining of chest pains, Dr. Guarraia’s partner,
Dr. Kevin Wei, referred the patient for a diagnostic angiogram. The result
of that test led physicians at Oregon Health & Science University
to schedule immediate, and what may have been lifesaving, bypass surgery.
“In less than a week, that patient went from experiencing chest pain
to being home starting his rehabilitation after open-heart surgery,”
Dr. Guarraia says. “That kind of turnaround is rare even in big
That said, it is also an example of the kind of comprehensive, responsive
system of heart care that Dr. Guarraia envisioned when he signed on with
MCMC after the hospital and OHSU agreed to collaborate on a local cardiology clinic.
That was only five years ago, but seems much longer considering all the
growth that has occurred at MCMC Cardiology in that time.
“When we opened it was just an RN, an administrative assistant and
me. We were located in an office up by the hospital, and we were seeing
about four or five patients a day,” says Dr. Guarraia, who came
to The Dalles immediately after completing a three-year cardiology fellowship at OHSU.
At the time, Dr. Guarraia had said that, in addition to his love of the
Gorge, he chose this opportunity because “I like the idea of building
something in this community that hasn’t existed before.”
Five years later, that mission has been accomplished. Only two years after
the clinic opened, Dr. Kevin Wei, an echocardiography specialist, came
on board to help Dr. Guarraia take care of the dramatically growing number
of patients seeking local heart expertise. Today, the MCMC Cardiology
staff has grown to include a nurse practitioner, an RN, three medical
assistants, an echocardiography technologist and various other team members.
The clinic’s diagnostic capabilities and facilities have grown significantly
as well. MCMC Cardiology is now located at Water’s Edge in The Dalles
but also has offices in Goldendale and Heppner, and both Drs. Guarraia
and Wei maintain their faculty appointments at OHSU.
While patients with a wide range of heart-related issues now rely on MCMC
Cardiology for their care, they typically have one of four underlying
conditions, Dr. Guarraia says.
“The predominant issues we see are related to high cholesterol, high
blood pressure, coronary artery disease and atrial fibrillation, or abnormal
heart rhythm,” he says.
Most patients can be treated locally, but anyone requiring open-heart surgery
or more highly specialized care is assured of experiencing seamless coordination
of care because of the clinic’s close relationship with OHSU.
In another example of the benefits of that collaboration, in 2012 OHSU
became the first hospital on the West Coast to successfully use a procedure
to replace a patient’s heart valve without requiring open-heart
surgery. That patient was a Goldendale resident, who was first seen at
the MCMC clinic before being referred to OHSU.
“It’s really a luxury for people in a region this size to have
access to the level of specialty and sub-specialty care that is now available
locally and through our relationship with OHSU,” Dr. Guarraia says.
It’s also a luxury residents of the region can get used to, he adds.
“Dr. Wei and I both love the Gorge; we’re not going anywhere.”
Ask your primary care provider if an appointment with an MCMC heart specialist
is appropriate for you.