MORRISTOWN, NJ, SEPTEMBER, 2012 – Despite heart disease being the number one killer of women in the U.S., there remain significant gaps in the research, diagnosis and treatment of this condition. In an effort to help close this gap, the Gagnon Cardiovascular Institute at Morristown Medical Center, the Gagnon Cardiovascular Center at Overlook Medical Center, and Newton Medical Center have launched a new Women's Heart Program to address and treat the gender-specific cardiovascular needs of women.

More than 42 million American women are living with heart disease and, while considerable progress has been made in the last decade toward reducing deaths from cardiovascular disease, women still suffer worse outcomes than men for some cardiac conditions and interventions.

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The Women’s Heart Program at Atlantic Health System will provide gender-specific evaluation and management of women with known or suspected heart disease through an integrated program, that includes hospital and community-based cardiologists and is also able to draw on the resources of the integrative medicine department. To improve upon the understanding of gender differences, patients will also be able to participate in research studies.

“Treatment for heart disease is not a one-size-fits-all approach, and there remain significant physiological differences between men and women that, ideally, should dictate different research and treatment protocols between the genders,” explained Linda Gillam, MD, MPH, chair of cardiovascular medicine for Atlantic Health System. “Atlantic Health’s new Women’s Heart Program, based at Morristown Medical Center, will combine our medical expertise with the latest medical innovations to improve health outcomes for women in the communities we serve.”

The Women’s Heart Program offers many benefits for women seeking cardiac care. Female patients with known or suspected heart disease will receive gender-specific care for cardiac conditions including arrhythmias, chest pain syndromes, coronary artery disease and valve disease, including mitral valve prolapse.  Morristown Medical Center is the only hospital in New Jersey and one of just 20 across the country to offer three minimally-invasive treatment options for heart valve repair and replacement for patients who are ineligible to undergo open heart surgery, including CoreVavle, Sapien and MitraClip. These treatments are available for women and men.

“The launch of the new Women’s Heart Program furthers Morristown Medical Center’s efforts to pioneer innovative diagnosis, treatment and research programs in the U.S.,” said Claire Boccia, MD, Director of the Women’s Heart Health program for Atlantic Health System. “Our clinicians are trained to notice the differences in how women present with heart conditions and diagnose and treat them according to their gender-specific needs.”

The program will employ unique protocols to identify cardiac symptoms in female patients, such as cardiac ischemia, which is often dismissed in women.  The physicians will also diagnose and treat cardiac issues that develop during pregnancy that require close monitoring, such as preeclampsia, gestational diabetes and pregnancy-induced hypertension, which can lead to the development of heart disease at a younger age.

Specifically, the Women’s Heart Program will work toward:  the development of a research knowledge base for cardiologists learning to screen and treat women for cardiac issues; providing support and advocacy for women; and pushing to find partners willing to try to make devices designed specifically for women, such as catheter-based treatments.

The program is spearheaded by two female physicians – Linda Gillam, MD, MPH, chair, Cardiovascular Medicine and Director, Cardiovascular Disease Fellowship Program, Atlantic Health System; and Claire Boccia, MD, Director of the Women’s Heart Health program, Atlantic Health System. 

Linda D. Gillam, MD, MPH specializes in echocardiography, valvular heart disease and heart disease in women. Currently, she is a member of the board of directors of the National Board of Echocardiography.  She has authored more than 100 peer-reviewed publications, 11 book chapters and edited textbooks.  In addition, Dr. Gillam is the recipient of multiple awards, including Women in Cardiology Mentoring Award of the American Heart Association Council on Clinical Cardiology, the American College of Cardiology Distinguished Service Award, and others. She is a graduate of McGill University and Queen’s University in Canada as well as Columbia University in New York and completed cardiology training at the University of Toronto and Massachusetts General Hospital.

Claire Boccia, MD, graduated from Cornell University Medical College with honors.  Her undergraduate and master's degrees were received from Cornell University and Harvard, respectively. She completed her residency in Internal Medicine at New York University Medical Center, followed by a fellowship in cardiology at New York-Presbyterian Hospital (Cornell campus) in New York City.  Dr. Boccia’s special interests include women's heart health and cardiovascular disease prevention, cardiovascular complications during pregnancy and adult congenital heart disease.

For more information about the Women’s Heart Program services for women, procedures, treatment and cardiac clinical trials, please call 973-971-7001 or click here.

About Atlantic Health System
Atlantic Health System is one of the largest non-profit health care systems in New Jersey, comprised of Morristown Medical Center, Overlook Medical Center in Summit and Newton Medical Center. The three medical centers – all accredited by The Joint Commission – have a combined total of 1,308 licensed beds and more than 2,750 affiliated physicians providing a wide array of health care services to the residents of Northern and Central New Jersey. Specialty service areas include advanced cardiovascular care, pediatric medical and surgical specialties, neurology, orthopedics, and sports medicine. Each of these programs has earned top ratings and recognitions in their respective fields. Atlantic Health System is the official health care partner of the New York Jets and an official health care provider of the New Jersey Devils.

Morristown Medical Center’s Gagnon Cardiovascular Institute performs more heart surgeries than any other hospital in New Jersey, and is one of 20 facilities across the country to perform catheter-based repair and replacement of valves on both sides of the heart. Atlantic Health System’s spine program – where surgeons perform more spine surgery than anywhere else in New Jersey – is one of just 13 hospitals across the country that has received the Gold Seal of Approval™ from The Joint Commission, achieving Disease-Specific Care Certification for cervical and lumbar spine treatments. With the Atlantic Neuroscience Institute based at Overlook Medical Center, the hospital serves as the hub for the New Jersey Stroke Network, and serves about 40 percent of the state’s stroke patients. The system’s Goryeb Children’s Hospital offers more than 100 board-certified physicians in 20 pediatric specialties. Morristown Medical Center is verified as a Level I Regional Trauma Center by the American College of Surgeons and designated a Level II by the state of New Jersey.

Atlantic Health System has been chosen for the past three consecutive years by FORTUNE® as one of the magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For®.” The organization has also been recognized four times by AARP as one of the “Best Employers for Workers over 50.” Inside Jersey magazine partnered with Castle Connolly Medical Ltd. and ranked Morristown Medical Center as the No. 1 hospital in New Jersey and the No. 1 hospital for treatment of heart failure and coronary surgery in the state. The survey findings also establish Overlook as No.1 for the treatment of neurological disorders and stroke in NJ. Atlantic Health System is a Major Clinical Research Affiliate with The Cancer Institute of New Jersey and is the primary academic and clinical affiliate in New Jersey of Mount Sinai School of Medicine and The Mount Sinai Hospital.