Spectrum Health Fred and Lena Meijer Heart Center Celebrates 10 Years

Landmark Building Is Catalyst for Advancing Cardiovascular Care in West Michigan

The Spectrum Health Fred and Lena Meijer Heart Center is celebrating a decade of advanced heart and vascular care. The Meijer Heart Center, which opened in November 2004, has brought a new level of cardiovascular care to West Michigan.

Today, Spectrum Health offers heart and vascular services and procedures ranging from prevention efforts, minimally invasive interventions and catheterizations to open heart surgery and heart and lung transplants.

“The Meijer Heart Center has been a catalyst for creating a nationally-recognized heart and vascular program for our patients,” said Tina Freese-Decker, president, Spectrum Health Hospital Group. “The success of the program serves as an example of the extraordinary achievements that can be made when people are brought together with a shared vision—high quality cardiac care close to home. The program relies on our skilled team of physicians and caregivers who collaborate using evidence-based practices to provide the best possible care for our patients locally and throughout the region.”

The Meijer Heart Center has served as the backdrop for dozens of accomplishments during the past decade (see milestones below). Among the most significant was in 2010 when Spectrum Health performed its first heart transplant. In 2013, Spectrum Health performed its first lung transplant as well as a combined heart and lung transplant—the first of its kind in Michigan since 1999. To date, 43 heart transplants and 22 lung transplants have been performed. In addition, Spectrum Health offers a comprehensive ventricular assist device program and cardiothoracic critical care unit to support patients with advanced heart failure. Recent research efforts have received national attention and are bringing clinical trials and innovative treatment options to patients.

Much of the progress at the Meijer Heart Center has been fueled by the Frederik Meijer Heart & Vascular Institute. Through another major gift from Fred and Lena Meijer in 2010, the institute was formed by Spectrum Health cardiovascular physicians to create a collaborative, multidisciplinary approach to care delivered throughout the region. The institute spurs clinical innovation, thought leadership, leading-edge research, patient and physician education and information, as well as clinical and operational best practices in cardiovascular care.

“The Meijer Heart Center has become the home for heart and vascular care in our region, and has provided us with an environment that supports collaboration and state-of-the-art care,” said Penny Wilton, MD, department chief, cardiovascular services, Spectrum Health. “Each day we see patients and their families who are pleased they can receive this level of care in Grand Rapids. Our ability to help these patients has changed dramatically from 10 years ago. We have so many ways to treat patients with any type of heart condition—from open heart surgery or transplants to catheterizations for heart attacks, heart rhythm issues or valve problems and procedures for vascular conditions. Today, there is often hope for patients with heart disease and heart failure. That was not the case 10 years ago.”

A major gift from Fred and Lena Meijer along with support from more than 3,000 other donors giving more than $35 million helped establish the heart center with the hope of saving lives, sparking innovation and supporting the community. Individuals continue to embrace the lifesaving work of the Meijer Heart Center by continuing to provide important philanthropic support for heart and vascular clinical care and research efforts. 

“In 10 years, the Meijer Heart Center has earned the respect and trust of patients and physicians throughout West Michigan as the beacon for high-quality heart, vascular and lung care,” said Freese-Decker. “Our expert clinicians have changed the face of cardiovascular care here and transformed the lives of thousands of patients and their families.”

Meijer Heart Center Milestones: Trailblazing cardiovascular care for more than 50 years:

  • 1958: West Michigan’s first open-heart surgery
  • 1969: West Michigan’s first coronary artery bypass
  • 1980: West Michigan’s first balloon angioplasty
  • 1989: West Michigan’s first implanted defibrillator
  • 2003: Among first in the state to introduce drug-eluting stents
  • 2004: State’s first accredited 24/7 chest pain center
  • 2004: One of the first in the nation equipped with 3-D X-ray equipment for three-dimensional cardiovascular imaging
  • 2004: Fred and Lena Meijer Heart Center opens its doors
  • 2005: West Michigan’s first prosthetic endovascular thoracic aneurysm graft procedure (repairs aneurysms of the aorta in the chest)
  • 2006: West Michigan’s first cardiovascular genetics program
  • 2008: First surgeons in West Michigan to repair defective heart valves robotically
  • 2008: West Michigan’s first Impella miniature heart pump introduced in high-risk angioplasties
  • 2009: Stereotaxis magnetic catheter navigation introduced
  • 2009: West Michigan’s first ventricular assist devices (VADs) implanted for heart failure patients as a planned “bridge” to heart transplant
  • 2010: The Frederik Meijer Heart & Vascular Institute is formed with cardiologist Richard McNamara, MD, and cardiothoracic surgeon Lawrence Patzelt, MD, leading its development as co-medical directors
  • 2010 Richard DeVos Heart & Lung Transplant Program is formed
  • 2010: West Michigan’s first heart transplant performed by international cardiac surgeon, Asghar Khaghani, MD
  • 2011: First in Michigan to implant MRI-safe pacemaker in Michigan, allowing patients with a pacemaker to undergo safe MRI scans
  • 2011: Second institution in the U.S. accredited by Accreditation for Cardiovascular Excellence for percutaneous coronary intervention
  • 2013: First lung transplant and first combined heart-lung transplant
  • 2013: First in West Michigan to perform Lariat procedure, minimally invasive technique to tie off a left atrial appendage, which can be a source of blood clots leading to stroke in patients with atrial fibrillation (AFib)
  • 2014: Richard DeVos Cardiovascular Research Program is formed as a collaboration with Van Andel Research Institute to bring world-renowned cardiovascular researcher and cardiologist Stefan Jovinge MD, Ph.D., to Grand Rapids
  • 2014: Appointment of internationally renowned cardiac surgeon, Dr. Martin Strüber, MD

Spectrum Health is a not-for-profit health system, based in West Michigan, offering a full continuum of care through the Spectrum Health Hospital Group, which is comprised of 11 hospitals including Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital; 169 ambulatory and service sites; 1,150 employed physicians and advanced practice providers including members of the Spectrum Health Medical Group; and Priority Health, a 590,000-member health plan. Spectrum Health is West Michigan’s largest employer with 21,600 employees. The organization provided $294.6 million in community benefit during its 2014 fiscal year. In 2014, Spectrum Health was named one of the nation’s 15 Top Health Systems® by Truven Health Analytics.