St. Mary Medical Center and Loma Linda University Health partner to advance heart care in the High Desert

St. Mary Medical Center and Loma Linda University Health are partnering to enhance heart care in the High Desert, and the first step is a plan for a team of Loma Linda cardiovascular surgeons to practice locally.

The goal is to raise the level of care in the High Desert, making it possible for patients to seek treatment close to home.

“This is about improving cardiac care in the High Desert,” St. Mary Chief Executive Randall Castillo said. “Loma Linda is highly recognized, and a lot of residents travel down the hill to seek care. We want to expand services here to our community so people don’t have to travel.”

Surgeon Sarika Jain, M.D., has opened a local office and is joined by five other Loma Linda University Health surgeons who rotate weekly to expand local care. They are Anees Razzouk, M.D., Joshua Chung, M.D., Rosario Floridia, M.D., David Rabkin, M.D., and Bruce Toporoff, M.D.

The team of Loma Linda University Health physicians opened an office adjacent to the hospital on Sept. 1.

“We think there is a big need in Apple Valley and the surrounding High Desert Area,” Dr. Jain said. “Patients often have to look for treatment out of their community because there is not enough surgical availability there. It’s a really good opportunity.”

The partnership provides a perfect fit for two not-for-profit faith-based medical centers that share values of compassion, excellence and integrity.  Loma Linda University Health is nationally recognized for quality and safety. St. Mary was named this year as one of America’s Top 250 hospitals, according to Healthgrades.

One goal for St. Mary is to build its volume of cardiovascular services to improve its expertise.  At the same time, the partnership creates a path for the most seriously ill to seamlessly transfer to Loma Linda for next-level care.

Nationally, there has been a decline over decades in heart surgeries due to new medications and to advanced interventional procedures such as minimally-invasive placements of stents to open arteries, rather than performing surgical bypass procedures. But the need remains for highly trained surgeons to treat the most serious cases and Castillo believes patients benefit by getting that care in their community.

“This is a key first step in our plan to broaden our expertise for heart patients to better meet the needs of our community,” Castillo said. “We’re very excited about this partnership.”