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New Physicians Bolster St. Mary’s Cardiac Centre’s Deep Bench of Talent

April 12, 2017 (Kitchener) 

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As demand for cardiac services at St. Mary’s Regional Cardiac Care Centre has grown, so too has its roster of cardiac physicians who bring a variety of specialized skills to the community. 

The Kitchener centre has added a fourth cardiac surgeon, a new interventional cardiologist, a new heart failure specialist, a cardiac rehabilitation specialist and a cardiac electrophysiologist. The centre serves a catchment area of nearly one million people and many of those patients have complex cardiac needs. 

“These highly-skilled young specialists could have chosen to practice anywhere,” says Dr. Brian McNamara, Chief of Cardiovascular Services at St. Mary’s. “They came here because of our nationally-recognized program, quality of life in Waterloo Region and strong community investment in the latest equipment. They have given us even greater bench strength as we enter the next phase in our evolution. The public should recognize that their future cardiac care needs will be well served by St. Mary’s and the physician staff we have assembled.”  

Since the cardiac centre’s inception in 2001, the number of cardiac specialists at the centre has grown. In 2000, Kitchener-Waterloo had four cardiologists; today there are 16, with another one to come this summer. When open heart surgery began at the cardiac centre in 2003, there were two cardiac surgeons. Now there are four, including Dr. Jennifer Higgins, the latest addition to the team and its first female.   

“We see some of the most complex cases in Ontario, and yet our outcomes are among the best,” says Dr. Higgins. In 2015-16, 840 cardiac bypass and valve surgeries were performed at St. Mary’s.   

Dr. Amelia Yip, a cardiologist and one of just a few heart failure specialists in Ontario, was attracted to St. Mary’s by the skill set and collegiality of the cardiac physician group. “This setting is unique because there is a lot of sub-specialty, as well as cardiac surgery which you don’t often see in a community hospital,” says Dr. Yip.   

A number of St. Mary’s new recruits have highly advanced skills. Dr. Jaffer Syed, an interventional cardiologist has expertise in a procedure called rotational atherectomy. The procedure uses a microscopic drill that spins at 180,000 rotations per minute to clear blocked heart vessels. By comparison, car tires during highway driving spin about 3,500 rpm. Not only does Dr. Syed perform the delicate and highly effective procedure, he has trained other physicians on the St. Mary’s interventional cardiology team. 

The growing demand for service was recently recognized by the Ministry of Health and Long-term Care with an investment of $3.6 million to fund nearly 800 additional cardiac procedures like surgery, diagnostic angiograms and angioplasty.   

The six new cardiac specialists at St. Mary’s also includes:   

Dr. Sammy Ali – a cardiologist who specializes in advanced echocardiography, a precise diagnostic technique. 

Dr. Matthew Chamberlain – a cardiologist who specializes in echocardiography and cardiac rehabilitation. 

Dr. Umjeet Jolly – the centre’s second cardiac electrophysiologist. Dr. Jolly was recruited as the centre prepares to introduce advanced heart rhythm services known as electrophysiology studies and ablation. Electrophysiology studies map the electrical circuits of the heart to identify areas causing highly symptomatic or potentially life-threatening arrhythmias. A catheter is inserted into the heart and delivers a burst of high-energy waves to destroy these abnormal areas – a procedure known as ablation. 

St. Mary’s is the only cardiac centre in Ontario without these services. Local patients have to travel to London or Hamilton with waits of up to 100 days. Those waits are expected to be cut in half when the new service begins at St. Mary’s in 2018. 

Construction will include outfitting an existing procedure room and building new preparation and recovery space. The Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care has committed up to $7 million to the project and the community has so far invested $13 million toward a $15 million campaign for equipment. 

“We are in the home stretch with $2 million in investments still needed,” says Susan Dusick, President of the St. Mary’s Hospital Foundation. “Our community recognizes that having top-notch equipment is vital to attracting talent and providing the highest quality cardiac care close to home,” she says. 

To learn more about bringing advanced heart rhythm services to St. Mary’s, and how you can help, visit



Anne Kelly 
Manager, Communications
519-749-6578, ext. 1501
226-339-1903 (mobile)