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Phoebe Marks 40th Anniversary of Region’s First Open-Heart Surgery


Albany, GA | June 8, 2023 – Phoebe is marking a milestone anniversary for its Heart & Vascular Services. Forty years ago, the cardiac team at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital performed the first open-heart surgery in south Georgia, expanding the availability of advanced, lifesaving care in this part of the state and leading to continual growth and advancement of cardiovascular care at Phoebe through the ensuing decades. Currently, advanced cardiovascular services available at Phoebe include high-risk surgeries, high-risk interventional procedures, minimally-invasive heart valve replacements, cardiac catheterization, angioplasty, implantation of pacemakers and other cardiac devices, ablation and other advanced electrophysiology procedures, cardiac MRI, and peripheral vascular interventions – among other procedures.

“Decades ago, Phoebe leaders made a promise to the people of southwest Georgia to provide expert specialty care services so they could stay here at home to receive the medical care they might need. The critical investments that led to that first open-heart surgery exemplify that pledge, and it’s a promise we continue to live up to today,” said Deb Angerami, Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital CEO.

Dr. Michael Roberts was the lead surgeon on that first open-heart surgery in 1983, assisted by Dr. James Freeman and Dr. William Safley. They completed a quintuple bypass on 69-year-old Claudie Bell Corbitt. She was released from the hospital on June 10, 1983. At the time, Corbitt said, “I knew if they could do it to me in New York, they could do it to me in Albany,” adding that she chose to be the region’s first open-heart patient because “it’s closer to home, convenient.”

Dr. Jeffrey Hoopes and Dr. Craig Mitchell both came to Albany in the early 1980s and also were driving forces in the development of cardiovascular services over the next 30+ years. Dr. Mark Cohen, Phoebe’s current Medical Director of Heart & Vascular Services, said their longstanding commitment to excellence in cardiovascular care in the region was one of the things that attracted him to Phoebe 14 years ago.

“I am pleased and proud that Phoebe has continued to make investments that have allowed us to build on those early successes and continue to bring new and more advanced procedures to keep people here at home for their cardiac care,” Dr. Cohen said.  “Those early expansions of services were landmarks that led to what our program is today.”

Cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Anthony Hoots joined the team 1990 and has helped bring surgical advancements to Phoebe’s Heart & Vascular team. He is among the current group of 15 physicians which includes general, interventional and structural cardiologists, as well cardiothoracic surgeons, a vascular surgeon and an electrophysiologist. “We have an outstanding team of experienced physicians who have worked and trained at some of the best medical facilities in the country. What we are able to do here truly does rival what is available at large academic hospitals in major metropolitan areas,” Dr. Cohen said.

Phoebe currently performs around 100 different cardiology procedures and was the first hospital in south Georgia to offer nearly all of them. Since 2017, Phoebe has performed more than 185 transcatheter aortic valve replacements (TAVR), a minimally-invasive procedure that replaces the heart’s main valve and reduces symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, fainting and fatigue. Phoebe also initiated a minimally-invasive treatment that reduces the risk of stroke for patients with atrial fibrillation and has implanted more than 105 of those devices.

Additionally, Phoebe was the first health system in the region to complete complex valve-in-valve replacements, as well as patent foramen ovale (PFO) and atrial septal defect (ASD) closures to repair holes in the heart without requiring open-heart surgery.

“We have continued to build on the foundation that was laid in the early days of our cardiovascular program, and we are committed to remaining on the cutting edge of cardiac care as we make more investments in technology, equipment and personnel to ensure southwest Georgians have access to quality, comprehensive cardiac care here at Phoebe,” Angerami said.

You can learn more about Phoebe’s Heart & Vascular Services at www.phoebeheart.com.