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MARION — Heartland Regional Medical Center and SluCare Physician Group announced a new collaboration Thursday afternoon and introduced Dr. Ali Mehdirad, a nationally-recognized cardiologist in the field of electrophysiology.

Through the collaboration, Dr. Mehdirad will be available in the offices of River to River Heart Group two days a month to treat difficult cardiac cases, particularly in the areas of arrhythmia management and device implants for cardiomyopathy.

Dr. Mehdirad is director of electrophysiology and a professor of medicine at Saint Louis University School of Medicine. He was joined in Marion by Dr. Michael Lim, interventional cardiologist and co-director of the Center for Comprehensive Cardiovascular Care at Saint Louis University School of Medicine.

Dr. Lim explained they started trying to create an onsite physician presence at Heartland about two years ago, but the relationship with River to River Heart Group goes back more than seven or eight years.

“Patients have a deep interest in getting the best possible care locally,” Dr. Lim said. “This partnership will give them the ability to have the best possible care at the closest location.”

Dr. Mehdirad said the arrival of Dr. Victor Mwansa and Melisa Adkins, CEO of Heartland, the speed of getting the collaboration going got a lot faster.

“I’m very excited to work with the team at Heartland. They are very capable and very patient center,” Dr. Mehdirad said. “I expect rapid growth with Heartland.”

Heartland already has a collaborative telemedicine agreement with Cardinal Glennon Hospital in St. Louis.

Adkins said she and Dr. Lim were working on this collaboration when she left Heartland, and it had not progressed much when she returned.

“Patients will travel if they have to, but they feel more comfortable in their home communities,” Adkins said.

Dr. Lovely Chhabra, an invasive non-interventional cardiologist with River to River Heart Group at Heartland, said he describes the heart at a water pump. It has two systems, mechanical and electrical, and needs good function in both. Before, River to River Heart Group could provide mechanical care for the heart. Now, it can also provide good electrical care for the heart.

Dr. Mehdirad said he will start by treating less complex cases in Marion, and gradually grow to provide the same type of care as in St. Louis.

“Atrial Fibrillation is the most common arrhythmia in the country and the world. It raises the risk of stroke. Now, we have ways to stop that,” Dr. Mehdirad said.

He will also treat advanced cases of heart failure. Overall, the care will extend lives and improve the quality of lives for patients.

“The process is huge and laudable. These people (at River to River Heart Group) come from great training programs and come here from big city programs. They have a passion for helping folks in this area,” Dr. Lim said.

Dr. Chhabra looks forward to working with a physician with the expertise of Dr. Mehdirad and said they will eventually help train medical students. The physicians, nurses and technicians will be able to train in Saint Louis University School of Medicine.

“I’m sure our patients will benefit from the partnership,” Dr. Chhabra said.

“It’s a big moment for us, and it only the beginning of what we’re getting ready to offer,” Adkins said. “I think it will be very well received, especially for people who are unable or afraid to drive in St. Louis.”



Marilyn Halstead is a reporter covering Williamson County.

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