A warm welcome

Mark Sims joins Grand Strand Regional as CEO

Patients and Employees at Grand Strand Regional Medical Center are Seeing a New, Friendly Face at the Hospital. Mark Sims, the hospital’s new chief executive officer (CEO), arrived on Dec. 2, 2013; since then, he has been busy meeting the hospital’s staff and getting acquainted with the community.

“I’m going to spend a lot of time listening to and engaging with our medical staff, getting to know our team at the hospital and the people in the community,” Sims says. “It’s very important to me to get to know folks, and vice versa.”

Proven Leadership

Sims may be new to Grand Strand Regional, but he is no stranger to healthcare, having worked for HCA, Grand Strand Regional’s parent company, for 20 years. He most recently served as CEO at TriStar StoneCrest Medical Center in Smyrna, Tenn., and Parkridge East Medical Center in Chattanooga, Tenn.

“Mark Sims has a proven track record in quality outcomes, quality satisfaction and medical staff relations,” says Jamie Thomas, HCA/South Atlantic Division president. “He is well positioned to lead Grand Strand Regional as the hospital continues to grow in clinical excellence.”

Sims says he is inspired by the hospital’s successes over the past few years and excited about the future. “The physicians and our team at the hospital are known throughout Myrtle Beach, Horry County and beyond for delivering excellent patient care. Also, it will be exciting for me to be a part of a facility that continues to develop its clinical service lines.”

Settling In

Sims, his wife and their two sons have wasted no time becoming familiar with their new home and the community. “My family will be transitioning within the next few months, and we look forward to all the opportunities that Myrtle Beach has to offer, from the schools to the

WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT THE TYPES OF PEOPLE WHO NEED HEART VALVE REPLACEMENTS AND BYPASS SURGERY, YOU PROBABLY PICTURE FOLKS IN THEIR 60s OR 70s. BUT A GROWING NUMBER OF MEN AND WOMEN IN THEIR 40s AND 50s HAVE NEEDED THESE SURGICAL PROCEDURES, BECAUSE HEART DISEASE HAS BEEN AFFECTING SIGNIFICANTLY MORE YOUNGER PEOPLE THAN IN THE PAST.

“When people need a valve replacement in their 40s, it’s often because something has been missed,” says Robert Messier Jr., MD, PhD, a cardiothoracic surgeon at Grand Strand Heart & Vascular Specialists. “A lot of heart disease is silent. They haven’t had that encounter with their physician that would identify it before it became symptomatic.”

Other factors that contribute to the rise in heart disease among younger Americans include the nationwide obesity epidemic and technological advances that make it easier to lead more sedentary lives. “Unless you have a physician monitoring you,” Dr. Messier says, “it can be hard to stop smoking, eat a low-fat diet, keep a tight control on your diabetes, maintain a normal weight and get regular physical activity.”

Unique challenges

Sometimes, heart disease is first identified in younger patients when they need surgery, rather than earlier, when it may be treated less invasively. While a younger patient can tolerate surgery well and recover quicker, the long-term prognosis may not be as good. Early disease of this magnitude requiring surgical correction often indicates a more aggressive generalized process of atherosclerosis in the case of patients needing coronary bypass. If a valve needs repair or replacement, there are trade-offs with respect to durability of the surgery and/or the need for indefinite anticoagulation. Both correlate with long-term survival. It may also be more stressful for a 40-something person to have major surgery while raising children and working.

“If you’re 70, you probably have the mortgage paid off and you may not have to report to a job,” Dr. Messier says. “Young people are in the middle of their careers, and they are looking at six weeks to three months off of work, which may affect their employability.”

Help is here

With a heart surgery program that is ranked #1 in South Carolina, plus a valve clinic that can keep patients from needing bypass or valve replacement at an early age, patients at Grand Strand Regional have access to exceptional care. And those who need bypass surgery or minimally invasive valve replacements—including those in their 40s and 50s—are in good hands. “They will get a superbly executed operation with world-class postoperative care,” Dr. Messier says.

Take a free heart risk profile

Visit grandstrandmed.com to take our free Heart Risk Profile and learn more about your heart health.

UCLA stroke specialist brings world-class expertise to Grand Strand Regional

WITH ONE OF THE HIGHEST STROKE DEATH RATES IN THE COUNTRY—SOUTH CAROLINA RANKS THIRD OUT OF THE 50 STATES—THE NEED FOR STROKE PREVENTION AND INTERVENTION IS CRITICAL.

Grand Strand Regional Medical Center, already certified by The Joint Commission as an Advanced Primary Stroke Center, understands the need for an even more comprehensive stroke management program. With this goal in mind, the hospital is pleased to welcome vascular neurologist Anil Yallapragada, MD, to lead the stroke initiative. Dr. Yallapragada was most recently a stroke clinical instructor at the University of California Los Angeles Ronald Reagan Medical Center and the West LA Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

Addressing a critical need

“I researched what areas in the country had the highest rates of stroke as well as the greatest need for a vascular neurologist,” Dr. Yallapragada says. “I was shocked to learn that my home state, South Carolina, is part of the ‘stroke belt’ and has one of the highest burdens of stroke in the country. I immediately knew these are the people I want to help, and this is the place I can make the greatest impact.”

Dr. Yallapragada, who comes from a family of physicians (his father, Shyam Yallapragada, is a pulmonary/critical care physician at Trident Medical Center in North Charleston), originally planned to be a lawyer while growing up in Charleston, but developed a love of science during his undergraduate work in chemistry at Loyola University in Chicago. Volunteering at a children’s hospital and nursing home helped shape his desire to help people back to wellness.

“In addition, I’ve seen relatives on both sides of my family suffer from stroke,” says Dr. Yallapragada. “It became my mission to understand [this condition] and help deliver the best therapies to victims of this devastating disease.”

The pursuit of neurology

Dr. Yallapragada realized his true calling in medical school while shadowing neurosurgeon Sunil Patel, MD. “It took just one day in the operating room,” he says. “I knew I’d be spending the rest of my life learning about the brain and fighting diseases that afflict it.”

Dr. Yallapragada performed his neurology residency at the University of Chicago Medical Center, where he was inspired by cases presented during weekly stroke conferences. “I spent many late nights thinking about these cases and doing extra reading to effectively understand and debate my own view,” he says. “Recognizing my growing passion and dedication to the field, my residency mentor, Jeffrey Frank, MD, recommended I seek fellowship training in vascular neurology.”

That journey led him to the UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center under the mentorship of Jeffrey Saver, MD, former president of the American Stroke Association and considered by many in the field as the top stroke specialist in the world. “At UCLA, I was exposed to the cutting edge of all aspects of cerebrovascular disease management. We used state-of-the-art equipment and technology to deliver exceptional patient care at levels that aren’t available yet to most of the world, but are on the horizon at Grand Strand Regional.”

Delivering comprehensive care

Among Dr. Yallapragada’s goals at Grand Strand Regional is to create more awareness and educate the public about stroke risk factors to help prevent strokes, as well as how to identify the symptoms of stroke. “With stroke, ‘time is brain,’” Dr. Yallapragada says. “The system of care we are developing minimizes time wasted, but it can only be effective if the patient gets medical attention quickly enough.”

Dr. Yallapragada also intends to develop processes to increase the number of patients who receive acute thrombolytic therapy within three hours of initial onset, as well as the number of patients who receive the necessary therapy within one hour of arrival at the emergency department. “A longer-term goal is to build and staff a specialized neurocritical care unit and more neuro-interventional capabilities to handle even the most complex of cerebrovascular cases,” he says.

“When I interviewed at Grand Strand Regional and spoke with the physicians, nurses and administration, I realized my feelings and goals were shared. I knew this would be a tremendous partnership,” Dr. Yallapragada adds. “The hospital has already demonstrated its commitment to excellence with its cardiovascular, trauma and emergency medicine programs, among others. I’m pleased to join in its commitment to build a world-class stroke center offering unparalleled stroke care in the region.”

Stroke? Act FAST

  • FACE: Does one side of the face droop? Ask the person to smile; is the smile uneven?
  • ARM: Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
  • SPEECH: Is speech slurred? Is the person unable to speak or hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is it repeated correctly?
  • TIME: Time is critical. If a person shows any of these symptoms, call 911. Check the time so you know when the first symptoms appeared.
Jeff Benjamin, DO
MOST OF US HAVE EXPERIENCED OCCASIONAL MINOR HEADACHE PAIN, EASILY REMEDIED BY TIME, REST AND PERHAPS A COUPLE OF ASPIRIN. BUT WHEN HEADACHES ARE SEVERE OR OCCUR OFTEN AND INTERFERE WITH YOUR QUALITY OF LIFE, IT MAY BE TIME TO CONSULT A NEUROLOGIST.

“Some people dismiss headaches as something you just live with,” says Jeff Benjamin, DO, a neurologist with Grand Strand Regional Spine & Neuro Center. “But headaches have a huge business, social and financial impact. There’s no reason to suffer when effective treatments are available.”

What’s the cause?

Usually, headaches are triggered by illness, such as a cold or flu, or environmental factors. Often, the cause is never determined.

Headaches are seldom a sign of a serious medical condition, but infrequently may be caused by brain tumors, brain aneurysms, strokes, head trauma, sinus infections, meningitis or high blood pressure. They may also be caused by dental problems or arthritis of the jaw or neck.

Dr. Benjamin recalls one situation where, despite the odds against it, a headache was a sign of a serious condition in a young patient. “A woman with headaches turned out to have a tumor the size of a fist. Fortunately, that is extremely rare.”

Types of headaches

Some common headaches include:

  • TENSION. “These are the headaches we treat most often,” Dr. Benjamin says. Tension headaches may involve a dull pain that builds slowly and can affect the forehead, scalp, back of the neck and both sides of the head. Although stress and tension may be a factor, tension headaches may also be caused by depression, anxiety or other factors. Tension headaches may respond to over-the-counter pain relievers and rest.
  • MIGRAINE. About 12 percent of the U.S. population suffers from migraine headaches, with women being affected more than men. “Migraines feature a throbbing pain that can occur on one or both sides of the head and may be accompanied by nausea and vomiting,” says Dr. Benjamin. “Many migraine sufferers experience an ‘aura’— often flashing lights or a distortion in vision—that may indicate a migraine is on the way.” Treatment may involve medication, either to relieve migraines or prevent them. “We like to try alternative treatments and avoid medications when we can,” Dr. Benjamin adds. “We’ve had success with biofeedback, lifestyle changes, chiropractic manipulation, physical therapy and acupuncture.”
  • CLUSTER. These headaches are rare but can be severe and generally affect one side of the head or the other. “Clusters occur more often in men than in women,” Dr. Benjamin says. “They tend to occur in clusters of one or more a day and then may go away for weeks or months.”
Seeking help

If you’re having what feels like the worst headache of your life, call 911 immediately. That can be a sign of an aneurysm that is leaking or about to erupt.

If you’re experiencing frequent or severe headaches, see your primary care provider. He or she may refer you to a neurologist for further diagnosis.

“The first step will be to have some tests done, such as an MRI or CT scan, to rule out any serious problems,” Dr. Benjamin says. “Then we’ll tackle how best to prevent and control headache pain.”

Know your headache triggers

Common migraine triggers include certain foods, such as aged cheeses and chocolate; alcoholic beverages, especially wine; food additives, such as MSG; too much caffeine or caffeine withdrawal. Women’s hormonal cycles and certain medications may also trigger headaches. Environmental factors that can cause headaches include dehydration, stress, unusual or strong odors, bright lights or glare, lack of or too much sleep and weather changes. “I recommend patients use a calendar to track their headaches,” says neurologist Jeff Benjamin, DO. “When you can identify weekly or monthly trends, it provides a window in which to take preventive medications and possibly avoid the headache.”

News Briefs

FOR THE SECOND CONSECUTIVE YEAR, GRAND STRAND REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER HAS BEEN NAMED A TOP PERFORMER ON KEY QUALITY MEASURES BY THE JOINT COMMISSION, THE LEADING ACCREDITOR OF HEALTHCARE ORGANIZATIONS IN AMERICA. The hospital was recognized for achievement in heart attack, heart failure, pneumonia and surgical care. To achieve this distinction, Grand Strand Regional implemented evidence-based practices in these areas that are shown to improve care for heart attack, stroke, pneumonia and more.

“Grand Strand Regional has demonstrated an exceptional commitment to quality improvements, and they should be proud of their achievement,” says Mark R. Chassis, MD, FACP, MPP, MPH, president and chief executive officer of The Joint Commission.

GRAND STRAND REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER SURGEONS ARE USING SINGLE-SITE™ TECHNOLOGY WITH THE DA VINCI ROBOTIC SURGICAL SYSTEM TO PERFORM GALLBLADDER SURGERY THROUGH A TINY, 1-INCH INCISION, MAKING THE PROCEDURE VIRTUALLY SCARLESS. Single-Site instruments used with the da Vinci Surgical System are the next step in the evolution of surgical technologies.

Unlike traditional robotic surgeries requiring three to five small incisions, this technology allows for a single incision in the belly button where instruments are placed and the diseased gallbladder is removed.

Grand Strand Regional surgeons have used robotic-assisted surgery since 2008, and the new single-site instrumentation is the latest technology. Benefits of robotic-assisted surgery include less blood loss, a quicker recovery, minimal pain and a shorter hospital stay.

For information about robotic-assisted procedures and surgeons using the technology, visit our robotic surgery page

Welcome new physicians

GARY B. SLAUGHTER, MD

Board certified in Dermatology
Medical School: Meharry Medical College, Nashville, TN
INTERNSHIP: University of Alabama, Montgomery
RESIDENCY: University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Charlotte Dermatology, (843) 839-2460

MARY ROSE TANTOCO, MD

Nephrology
MEDICAL SCHOOL: St. George’s University, Grenada, West Indies
INTERNSHIP/RESIDENCY: University of Connecticut, Farmington
FELLOWSHIP: Wake Forest Medical Center, Winston-Salem
Coastal Kidney Center, (843) 347-9487

Classes and more

Please visit the Grand Strand Health website each month for a complete listing.
Call (843) 692-4444 to register for all seminars and classes.