Healing Hearts

September 21, 2022

Memorial Staff

anthony vempala talking to patient

This year marks the 40th anniversary of a program that has been healing hearts throughout the South Florida community. From its inception in a small room at Memorial Regional Hospital to its current facilities in two locations, the Memorial Cardiac Rehabilitation (MCR) program has provided consistently progressive services to keep pace with the community’s increasing number of cardiac patients. As the largest and most advanced cardiac rehabilitation program in South Florida, MCR has been certified by the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation for the last two decades.

“Our reputation for excellence has inspired patients to travel from great distances – as far west as Naples and as far north as Cocoa Beach. At Memorial, cardiac rehabilitation is not just exercise, but an experience,” says Anthony C. Vempala, MS, Exercise Science, MA,THEO, director of the Memorial Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehabilitation and Medical Fitness.

Consisting of three essential service lines:

  1. Inpatient CR (Phase I)
  2. Outpatient CR (Phase II)
  3. Maintenance CR (Phase III)

MCR delivers a comprehensive, medically supervised program that is both rehabilitative and preventive in nature. This multifaceted approach emphasizes patient- and family-centered goal setting, cardiac disease management education, risk factor modification, exercise prescription and therapy, nutrition counseling, psychosocial management and tobacco cessation. Yet what truly sets this program apart is the shared mission of a compassionate and dedicated multidisciplinary team.

woman smiling using seated bike

“Our ‘miracle workers’ heal the body, mind and spirit of those we touch. Our goal is more than just for the patient to survive, but to thrive,” says Mr. Vempala.

This high level of care has resulted in patients being able to return to a fully active and meaningful lifestyle. Proof of this achievement is seen in MCR’s outcomes, which far exceed national benchmarks: a 97% increase in patients’ average metabolic equivalent of task (national benchmark: 40%), 96.75% of patients with optimal blood pressure control, 92.86% of patients who ceased tobacco use, 51% of patients who completed 36 sessions / met their goals (national average: 27%).

Under the collaborative and coordinated leadership of Michele Slane, vice president, Memorial Cardiac and Vascular Institute (MCVI), and Felicia Turnley, COO, Memorial Hospital West, Memorial’s cardiac rehabilitation services have been fully integrated into MCVI, Total Heart Center, and MPG Cardiology’s continuum of cardiac care. The result is an 85% physician CR referral rate (national average: 22%), 45% CR enrollment rate of eligible patients (national average: 20%) and < 18 days from hospital discharge to first outpatient CR session (national average: 101 days).

This organized effort has yielded unprecedented growth and presented opportunities to benefit the underserved in South Florida. Future initiatives will include equitable access to CR services, systemwide inpatient CR, outpatient pediatric CR, virtual home-based CR, and, potentially, a third facility to provide outpatient CR.

“With this new course set, the possibilities are endless,” says Mr. Vempala. “The impact on patients’ lives is beyond measure.”