The Heart of BIDMC
New cardiovascular facilities will continue lasting legacy
In his 30 years at BIDMC, Peter Zimetbaum, MD, has seen tremendous growth and development — not to mention change. From his time as a young intern to his current role as associate chief of the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine and director of clinical cardiology, Zimetbaum has been a vital part of one of the medical center's most prominent specialties. With the help of philanthropy, he is poised to continue to transform cardiovascular care for the next generation alongside Chief of Cardiology Robert Gerszten, MD.
"It's a privilege to work every day in an institution with an enormous legacy in cardiology," says Zimetbaum, alluding to his division's history of pioneering work in electrophysiology, interventional cardiology, and scientific discovery. A national leader in the treatment of structural heart disease, the division is also at the forefront in the development of new non-surgical procedures for valvular heart disease and evaluating outcomes to improve care. Even considering all the pioneering advances he has witnessed over the years, Zimetbaum believes that now is the most exciting time for cardiology at BIDMC. "We are at a pivotal point where we are doing so many novel, innovative things to redefine our field," he says. "And we are recruiting the best and the brightest from around Massachusetts, nationally, and internationally."
With the construction of a new inpatient building on BIDMC's West Campus, where a large portion of inpatient cardiovascular services will move, BIDMC is literally building on its storied history. And it's the largest change Zimetbaum has seen at the medical center in three decades. "This new building could not possibly come at a better time," he says. "In it, we will have access to state-of-the-art interventional tools in a contemporary environment that resonates with the division's incredible energy and talent." The new building will house brand new cardiac facilities, including both catheterization and electrophysiology laboratories, specialized cardiac procedure rooms, and technologically sophisticated operating rooms designed for collaborative use with multidisciplinary surgeons. In the operating rooms, Gerszten and Zimetbaum's team will perform leading-edge electrophysiology studies, structural heart procedures, surgical ablations, and much more. "Cardiologists have developed new techniques and treatments, such as minimally invasive heart valve procedures, that were not even dreamed of several decades ago, and certainly not when BIDMC's buildings were originally constructed," says Gerszten. "We need new facilities to match the new standards of care — which, in many cases, are being set by our own physicians."
Many things within the division, on the other hand, haven't changed — like the focus on patients above all else. "Something that is vitally important to BIDMC, and to me personally, is that we offer patient-centered care, and that is instilled in everyone here,"says Zimetbaum. "Although we're a world-class academic division, we prioritize our responsibility to our patients and our colleagues above all else. We do this in part through incredibly successful multidisciplinary programs. This is rare, and it distinguishes us from other major academic institutions." Thoughtfully designed to maximize the patient experience, the building delivers in this regard with single rooms that include amenities like sleeping space for loved ones. "Offering a more private setting to facilitate discussions with patients and a more inviting, comfortable physical space really enhances the care we provide to patients and families," says Zimetbaum.
Something else that hasn't changed? The division's culture. "People are incredibly supportive of each other here," says Zimetbaum. "Primarily, our first function is to take care of patients, and afterward, we take care of our colleagues. That generates a tremendous culture of respect, which makes BIDMC a very special place to work." Stemming from the culture, there is also an emphasis on engagement, teamwork, training, and career development for faculty. This has been fostered by Zimetbaum and Gerszten alike and passed along to everyone in the division. "We are invested in our team's success, and certainly we have improved morale as a consequence," he says. "When faculty feel valued and that their work is meaningful, it translates into better patient care."
Another constant in the division is its physicians' and leaders' enduring spirit of innovation. Three years ago, Zimetbaum led the launch of BIDMC’s Cardiac Direct Access Unit (CDAC), which he describes as a cardiac urgent care center, a novel concept in the field. Through the CDAC, patients can see a cardiologist, receive immediate care, and avoid an unnecessary emergency room visit. Often, as a result of this timely and efficient treatment, hospital admission is avoided, leading to the unit's tremendous success — and to other hospitals nationwide looking to replicate the CDAC. In the realm of innovation, Zimetbaum is also deeply involved with the Richard A. and Susan F. Smith Center for Outcomes Research in Cardiology, led by Robert Yeh, MD. There, a talented team of physician – researchers applies novel, rigorous analytics in combination with profound clinical expertise to evaluate and understand health outcomes. "Through analytics at the highest possible level, the center will be an incredibly valuable tool within the Beth Israel Lahey Health system," says Zimetbaum. "Bobby and his team are playing an integral role in evaluating what's working, what's not, and discerning areas of focus to ultimately advance delivery and outcomes."
Zimetbaum is quick to point out that one cannot discuss innovation in his division without mention of vital support from donors. "Philanthropy is critical to our mission," says Zimetbaum. "It has catalyzed a renaissance in this division and allowed us to accomplish what was once never thought possible." Despite receiving tremendous National Institutes of Health (NIH) support, the division relies on fundraising, which is more flexible in nature. This allows Zimetbaum's team to advance novel ideas like the Smith Center and hire emerging young faculty like Dr. Yeh — investments that traditional funding often won't support. "In order to build programs and to truly innovate, you need philanthropy. Without it, none of this would be possible."
In an environment with so much transformation, growth, and impact, it's refreshing to know that some things — like a distinct culture and an innovative spirit — are here to stay. "We have always been and will continue to be a very nimble division that tests novel ideas and invests in them when they're working," says Zimetbaum. "It's an honor for me to lead a group of exceptionally talented and driven people who are transforming the field of cardiology, and I look forward to continuing this work in the new state-of-the-art inpatient building."
Primarily, our first function is to take care of patients, and afterward, we take care of our colleagues. That generates a tremendous culture of respect, which makes BIDMC a very special place to work.”
Peter Zimetbaum, MD