Adena Health System: A Physician on a Mission

Nov 03, 2011, 08:05 ET from Adena Health System

CHILLICOTHE, Ohio, Nov. 3, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- When not in one of Adena's operating rooms replacing or repairing patients' heart valves, or any number of other cardiothoracic procedures, Dr. Jack Baker might be found in the Amazon.

While not an Indiana Jones on a quest for treasure, he is a physician on a mission – to help the less fortunate.

As a teenage Boy Scout living in Texas and spending summers as part of a Mountain Search and Rescue Team in New Mexico, he developed an interest in becoming a physician and a desire to travel to remote parts of the world.

His dream of practicing medicine reached fruition in the '90s when he opened a practice in Columbus and eventually introduced open heart surgery to Adena a decade later.

His dream of traveling to remote worlds and helping the less fortunate only began in 2007. "I finally realized that if I kept putting it off, it would never happen," he recalled.

Fortunately, a friend of his, Dave Smith, a former Cath Lab nurse at Adena, shared the same interest.

"Both of us had been interested in mission work for a long time," Dr. Baker said, which led them to Amazon Medical Missions. "You can do medical work. You can do dental work. You can do construction. You can do ministry."

During his first trip, the surgeon was amazed at the country and especially the city that would serve as the base for the mission. Iquitos, Peru, is a metropolis "in the middle of nowhere," he said, "reachable only by river or air. The nearest road is 300 miles from the city."

The first trip he made, the surgeon treated mostly infections and diarrhea. Because of the short life expectancy of the natives and their diets, they don't develop the chronic diseases we have in the U.S., he said.

During subsequent trips, he's done a combination of medicine and construction, or just construction, helping to build churches and houses.

It's ironic that the surgeon would help natives with primary medical needs. He had planned to become a family physician before he became fascinated with surgery, and then open heart surgery.

He and longtime associate Dr. Randy Miller are responsible for introducing open heart surgery to south-central Ohio. While working with the Mount Carmel Hospital network in Columbus, they saw many patients from Chillicothe and surrounding areas.

"As Adena began to grow and made the shift from a community hospital to more of a regional referral center, they asked Dr. Miller and I and if we wanted to start the program," he said.

Initially, the two surgeons did primarily lung surgery. In April 2006, they began doing open heart surgery and eventually brought aboard new physicians.

"Since that time, I think we have done a little over 500 hearts here. It's been a successful program for us and the hospital, and for the people of this area."

Teams of ICU, OR and Step-Down nurses from Adena received specialized training at Mount Carmel and teams of anesthesiologist from Mount Carmel assisted Adena's staff in applying new techniques.

"We're doing pretty much every procedure, except for heart transplants, that are done in much larger centers. The biggest challenge today is to let people in southern Ohio know that they can come to Adena for their cardiothoracic needs."

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About Adena Health System

Adena Health System is an independent, not-for-profit and locally controlled healthcare organization serving the needs of 13 counties in south-central Ohio and employing more than 2,400 people. Adena provides specialty services typically found in larger medical centers, like open heart surgery, cardiac catheterization, cancer care and advanced orthopedic procedures, including reverse shoulder surgery, total joint replacement and minimally invasive spine surgery. The health system is based in Chillicothe, OH.

SOURCE Adena Health System