Published on April 07, 2014

Meet Dr. Samer Garas, Leader in TAVR Treatment in Northeast Florida

Dr. Samer GarasA doctor’s primary aim is to save and improve the lives of his patients. For Dr. Samer Garas, there’s no better way to do than to get straight to the heart of the medical matter – pun intended. And as one of Northeast Florida’s top cardiologists, he’s leading the charge in one of the most game-changing technologies to hit the US cardiology market in years.

“Cardiology seemed the best way for me to utilize my skills to help people,” Dr. Garas said about choosing his particular medical specialty. “There are so many technological advances coming in cardiology, while heart disease remains the number one cause of morbidity and mortality in the world.”

Dr. Garas is an Interventional Cardiologist and Administrative Physician at St. Vincent’s HealthCare and serves as president of the St. Vincent’s Physicians executive committee. He studied at St. Louis, Missouri’s Washington University and Columbia’s University of Missouri School of Medicine, graduating Magna Cum Laude in 1995. He then went on to post-graduate training via an internal medicine internship and residency at St. Louis’s Barnes Hospital with Washington University School of Medicine; and cardiovascular and internal cardiovascular internships with Atlanta, Georgia’s Emory University School of Medicine. In 2005, Dr. Garas joined St. Vincent’s Hospital as its Chief of Cardiology.

Over the years, Dr. Garas has become known throughout the industry as a leading researcher and regularly participates in trials of groundbreaking new technologies. In 2012, he became the first in Northeast Florida to offer Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR), a new technology for treating aortic stenosis, a narrowing of the heart’s aortic valve opening.

Typically caused by age-related calcification, aortic stenosis inhibits normal blood flow, which leads to less oxygen-rich blood flowing from the lungs to the brain and rest of the body and symptoms like severe shortness of breath and extreme fatigue. Depending upon the severity of the condition and on the patient’s overall health and record of cardiologic issues, treatment heretofore has been primarily via medication and therapy or by open heart surgery. Unfortunately, medical therapy isn’t always effective and open surgery is too dangerous for many older patients and those with pulmonary disease or prior bypass surgeries. Now, TAVR offers a less invasive, highly effective option for thousands of patients whose aortic stenosis may otherwise be deemed untreatable.

TAVR involves inserting a bioprosthetic valve stent into the orifice of the native aortic valve percutaneously (through the skin) using a catheter. The stent latches onto the wall of the aortic valve, widening the narrowed valve opening and allowing blood to again flow normally. A successful TAVR procedure allows patients to avoid invasive surgery that can mean up to 10 days in the hospital and weeks of rehabilitation. Instead, TAVR patients often leave the hospital and return to their normal daily routine within just three days. And, trial results show a 40 percent reduction in mortality in patients that received TAVR versus patients treated with medical therapy.

TAVR is just one example of the new technologies that Dr. Garas, a recipient of the Debakey Award for Outstanding Performance in Cardiothoracic Surgery and St. Vincent’s Healthcare’s Guardian Angel award, and a member of the Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society, has helped bring to the marketplace either via participating in clinical trials or being among the first to adopt new treatments.

“We have always had an active research program and take pride in helping to bring new technologies to the system,” Dr. Garas says of his St. Vincent’s team. “But the most rewarding part of our work is in helping patients to get better and to do the things in their lives that they couldn’t before.”