We Are Champions initiative boosting community’s health care knowledge

We Are Champions patio

We Are Champions is an initiative created by the TMC Foundation to build a healthier Southern Arizona by bringing the community and health care knowledge together.

The group organizes in-depth health care presentations that cover important information regarding health and the health care system – helping each member champion stronger wellness and knowledge throughout our communities.

The presentations are conducted by health care leaders, offering the most current information about the technologies being used at Tucson Medical Center and the opportunity to ask questions and share experiences.

Luis LeonA recent discussion featured accomplished vascular surgeon Dr. Luis Leon, where the crowd learned details about the body’s vascular system and new advancements being used to treat complex vascular challenges.

Members will also receive guided tours of TMC, with information about each department and service line.

“This is a great way for our community to come together and share health care knowledge throughout Southern Arizona,” said Michael Duran, TMC vice president and chief development officer.

Future presentations are planned throughout the year, with the next being held by Dr. Michele Boyce Ley, a fellowship-trained breast surgical oncologist.

We Are Champions Adaline KlemmedsonAdaline Klemmedson, steering chair of We are Champions also shared her enthusiasm, “It is my privilege to be a part of Tucson Medical Center’s We Are Champions and I look forward to watching it grow in the future, particularly with your participation. We are excited to present a lecture series, facility tours and much more.  Please join us to learn more about TMC, your community hospital.  And through this experience, you will become a more healthy and informed you!”

For more information about We are Champions, call (520) 324-2296, email Krissy King or visit the We are Champions website.


A team approach to vascular surgery: like a “well-oiled machine”

They say “no man is an island” – and a surgeon is no exception.

Tucson Medical Center vascular surgeons are surrounded by teams of highly-trained, highly-experienced medical professionals, whether they are in the main operating room or in the catheterization lab.

The concept is simple.  Surround the surgeons with health care professionals who are so well-trained on every aspect of the procedure, they can predict what will happen next.  A team approach provides a safer, more efficient way to do things. 

Ed Salazar and Silver Palomino, TMC Special Procedure Technicians

Ed Salazar and Silver Palomino, TMC Special Procedure Technicians

Special procedure technicians Ed Salazar and Silver Palomino are key players on the OR team.  Their experience is measured in decades and their role during a procedure is invaluable.  Some of the key pieces they take care of include manning the control room and managing the software and imagery surgeons depend on while they operate. 

“The vascular department is very equipment intensive.  We have millions of dollars worth of devices we use.  They know how to use every piece, and they are a huge component in maintaining everything,” said Renee Paul, TMC Operating Room manager.  The pair has received extensive training on minimally invasive, or endovascular, procedures.

The remaining four members on this team are nurses and techs who have surgery backgrounds and therefore specialize in the open procedures.  “Our team provides a good balance because we have people with a working knowledge of both endovascular and open procedures.  It’s a wonderful complement to provide excellent care to all patients.  They will have that kind of specialty at hand, regardless of the type of procedure they’re having done,” said Paul.

TMC vascular surgeon Dr. Layla Lucas,Saguaro Surgical

TMC vascular surgeon Dr. Layla Lucas,
Saguaro Surgical

TMC vascular surgeon Dr. Layla Lucas from Saguaro Surgical said, “The quality of care is absolutely improved by having a team.  Patients have the peace of mind that everyone in the room with them knows exactly what’s going on from start to finish – not just the surgeon.  These teams are very savvy with new technology.  They are truly invested in vascular surgery and we partner with them in their commitment to provide patients the absolute best care.”

These team members offer physician and patient support.  This is especially valuable in TMC’s hybrid operating room, which can be used for a minimally invasive procedure and transformed to accommodate an open procedure in seconds if the need arises during surgery.  TMC will have a total of two hybrid operating rooms when the west campus opens up this spring.  Paul has plans to grow her team in order to accommodate the expansion. 

“Consistency from a specialized team leads to even greater patient safety,” said Paul.  “This team is comfortable with the surgeons.  The surgeons are comfortable with them.  Together, they are efficient, and work very methodically—like a well-oiled machine.”

The vascular team in the Cath Lab is much larger – about two-dozen people including nurses, radiology technologists and cardiovascular technologists.  Some of these employees have been at TMC for up to 30 years. 

“Experience matters,” said Roxanne Lee, Special Procedures/Cath Lab manager.  “This specialized team is really an asset because they take their training and knowledge and build on it.  They are so well-versed on every aspect of the procedure that they can actually recommend which piece of equipment will work best in a situation.”  The Cath Lab team is different from the OR team in that they also specialize in cardiac and radiology procedures in addition to having vascular expertise.

Both Paul and Lee said the feedback they receive is overwhelmingly positive.  “These physicians are very vocal that the team helps their cases go by quicker and easier with less stress,” said Lee.

TMC vascular surgeon Dr. Luis Leon, Agave Surgical

TMC vascular surgeon Dr. Luis Leon, Agave Surgical

“I have done vascular surgery with and without a team.  The team approach is key,” said TMC vascular surgeon Dr. Luis Leon from Agave Surgical.  “Doing a case with people who have that experience makes it so much easier because they can predict my next move, which is beneficial for everyone.  Their expertise also improves communication.  Additionally, since they’re so well trained on endovascular techniques, they can answer any questions the patient or family members may have.”

February Internal Vascular Series: Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms

Last month, readers may have read the story about Barbara Unger, a Tucson woman who narrowly escaped a life-threatening situation due to a serendipitous screening.

Unger was diagnosed with an abdominal aortic aneurysm, also known as an AAA to vascular surgeons and their patients.  AAA’s account for nearly 15,000 deaths each year, and they are the 13th leading cause of death in the United States. 

In an AAA, the wall of the aorta, the main artery that carries blood from the heart, permanently balloons out in a patient’s abdomen due to the pressure of blood passing through.  If it ruptures, the results can be catastrophic.

Who’s at risk? 

Dr. Luis Leon,Agave Surgical

Dr. Luis Leon,
Agave Surgical

“The condition typically affects Caucasian men who have smoked, and have high blood pressure.  Women, African Americans and diabetics tend to have a lower risk, but AAA’s tend to rupture more often in women than men, perhaps because of the smaller size of a woman’s arteries,” said Dr. Luis Leon of Agave Surgical. 

Repairing AAA’s through open surgery was developed in the 1950s, but required at least a week-long hospital stay.  The minimally-invasive technique that has since been developed requires surgeons to make just a small incision in the patient’s groin. 

“With this approach, the patient can go home the next day. Overall, there is less blood loss, and complications are dramatically reduced,” explained Dr. Leon.

There are ongoing advancements in the vascular field, and a renewed emphasis on screening since AAA’s often don’t present any symptoms.  “Most people come into the hospital with acute back pain.  Unfortunately at that point the aneurysm has ruptured,” Dr. Leon said. 

Current guidelines advise men who are between 35 and 65 years old and have a history of smoking to get an ultrasound of their belly.  “It’s painless, it’s inexpensive, and it takes five minutes.  These people need to get their aortas checked,” stressed Dr. Leon.  “If an aneurysm measures between three and five centimeters, the patient should be checked every six months to a year in order to ensure it doesn’t reach a critical size.  Aneurysms that measure five centimeters or larger generally should be considered for repair.”

In an effort to keep health care professionals informed about advancements in treatment options in the vascular field, Tucson Medical Center supports a monthly series dedicated to vascular disease.  For February, Dr. Leon spoke about state-of-the-art therapy for AAA’s to physicians, nurses and ultrasound technologists.

TMC’s internal vascular series serves a valuable role in keeping clinical staff aware of the latest techniques and devices available to treat vascular problems.  It improves care by building on what TMC staff already knows about caring for these patients.  With a greater understanding of what these patients are going through, they’re able to provide even higher quality compassionate care.

For more information on abdominal aortic aneurysm screening, click here.

For information to help you determine if you should get a screening test, click here.

Tucson Medical Center | 5301 E. Grant Road | Tucson, Arizona 85712 | (520) 327-5461