Renowned Doctor Still Strongly Supporting Cardiovascular Surgery – As a Community Member

Published Monday, March 13, 2023

Renowned Doctor Still Strongly Supporting Cardiovascular Surgery – As a Community Member

by Graham Strong

When Dr. Mark Henderson joined the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre as our first interventional cardiologist, his vision was to launch a full cardiovascular program right here in Northwestern Ontario.

“Bringing cardiovascular surgery to Thunder Bay was one of our goals,” Dr. Henderson said. “It’s been the goal of cardiologists here for over 30 years.”

That’s important because Northwestern Ontario has the highest incidence of heart disease and the highest need for heart procedures per capita in Ontario. Yet our patients have to travel the furthest for services. Almost every family in the region knows someone who has travelled to southern Ontario or elsewhere for care.

“We’re still sending hundreds of patients to southern Ontario for routine bypass surgery that could be done here. That needs to change.”

Last fall, Dr. Henderson joined the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Foundation Board of Directors to help reach that goal from a different angle: the all-important community involvement.

“Community plays a tremendous role in launching major programs like this,” Dr. Henderson said. “The most successful projects are the ones with the strong community support, both in spirit and in donations. The Foundation enables that community support, giving everyone the opportunity to contribute in some way. So joining the Foundation Board was an obvious way for me to continue the goal of bringing a cardiovascular surgery program to Thunder Bay.”

As our first interventional cardiologist, Dr. Henderson helped build our angioplasty program from the ground up. Over the next decade, he oversaw the program and personally performed thousands of life-saving angioplasties. He left in 2018 to become Chief of Cardiology at Health Sciences North in Sudbury before moving back to Thunder Bay recently in semi-retirement, seeing patients twice per week at Curans Heart Centre.

“I don’t think many people remember, but there was considerable opposition at the time to bringing an angioplasty program to Thunder Bay,” he said. “One of the things that really helped was community support. It’s amazing how much Thunder Bay raises for healthcare considering its size. Without that support, we wouldn’t have our angioplasty program, never mind a cardiovascular surgery program.”

As it turns out, the need for angioplasty in Northwestern Ontario was even greater than projected. Numerous experts predicted that our Hospital would perform up to 550 angioplasties annually. The actual number is now 1,000 per year. This doubling of cases underlines how important cardiac services are to everyone in the region.

As a Health Sciences Foundation Board member, Dr. Henderson will help the Foundation raise the funds needed through the Our Hearts at Home Cardiovascular Campaign to finally bring that cardiac surgery program to Thunder Bay.

“COVID delayed things, but now we’re getting back on track,” he said, adding that many people at the Health Sciences Centre have worked hard over the years to develop the program. Vascular surgery has already successfully launched, so all that’s needed is that final push. “When we do have cardiac surgery here, we will close the loop for the full spectrum of care for our cardiac patients.”

You can support this project and make your voice heard! Your donation today to the Our Hearts at Home Cardiovascular Campaign will ensure we get the high-quality cardiovascular surgery program we need to keep our cardiac patients at home. Donate online at XXXX or call our Donation Centre at (807) 345-4673.

Community support makes all the difference. Join Dr. Henderson today, and together let’s bring heart surgery home.


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