In August of 2008, Dr. Robert M. Jarrett, MD, FACC (President) and his wife Menoo Afkari Jarrett (Executive Director) founded Hearts Around the World, Inc. They saw a need for a new nonprofit organization with a specific goal, a simple operating philosophy and desire to improve cardiovascular care throughout the world.
Dr. Jarrett has been involved in international cardiovascular education for more than 24 years. Having worked with several other prominent international nonprofit organizations since 1990 in such varied countries as Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Colombia, Peru, Cape Verde, Cambodia and Vietnam, he along with his wife Menoo came to believe that a focused organization whose mission was solely to educate physicians and nurses in cardiovascular medicine was truly needed. They were convinced these projects could be developed with few expenses and that many American volunteers would be proud and excited to participate in these worthy endeavors. Hearts Around the World, Inc. operates with minimal overhead. There are no paid staff and no rents while all volunteers donate their time and expertise. Since its inception, the organization has been able to assure donors that more than 95% of every donated dollar goes directly to our programs.
Currently, Hearts Around the World, Inc. is sponsoring projects in Vietnam, Kenya, Haiti and China. The problem of cardiovascular disease in many parts of Asia, Africa, South America and the Caribbean is immense and still growing. We believe that we can make an enormous difference by educating the local physicians and nurses rather than treating and operating on these patients ourselves. Our philosophy has always been based on the premise that the local health care providers bear the ultimate responsibility for treating their patients with cardiovascular disease. Hearts Around the World, Inc. has and will always work side by side with our local in-country colleagues to educate and train them in the latest practices of cardiovascular medicine and surgery.
An important question we ask is why are we seeing an increase in cardiovascular disease in these countries? Why is our organization so vital to these countries? The answer involves several key factors. Rheumatic heart disease (a heart valve condition in children caused by recurrent strep throats) has been almost completely eradicated in Western countries but continues to be a major problem in poorer nations and takes the lives and thousands of children and young adults every year. In the U.S., children with congenital heart disease (heart defects present at birth) usually undergo open heart surgery at a very young age and they go on to live, long, healthy and productive lives. In many parts of the world, these surgeries are either too expensive or not available at all for most children. The incidence of coronary artery disease (heart attacks) and strokes are skyrocketing throughout these countries as the people of these poorer nations adopt a more Western lifestyle of smoking, high fat and high salt diets, and physical inactivity. Hearts Around the World, Inc. believes it is our responsibility to educate both the citizens and physicians of these nations about this coming epidemic.
The first step involves identifying a hospital that demonstrates a need and desire to improve the quality of care offered to their patients with cardiovascular disease. Dr. Jarrett and his wife Menoo then organize a small team of physicians who perform a site visit at the local hospital. This step is critical in the developmental process of our projects. It serves two purposes…first, the Hearts Around the World, Inc. site visit team determines if there is a willingness on the part of the local physicians to develop a long term partnership and second, this visit will be the start of relationship building. Educational partnerships in medicine are only successful when there is mutual trust. This trust must be earned by both the American and the local physicians. Once the site visit has been completed and the project gets the “go”, a full team is recruited. This usually consists of several cardiologists, a cardiac surgeon, an anesthesiologist, several OR and ICU nurses, a perfusionist and an ultrasound technologist. The teams are sent for 7-10 days and the work schedules are quite taxing. Our physicians are never working alone…always in tandem with their local counterparts. The key to success is consistency. Each project involves sending 2-4 teams per year and the promise that we will return for as many missions as necessary until the hospital has achieved self-sufficiency.
Prior to starting Hearts Around the World, Inc., Dr. Jarrett employed this educational model in St. Petersburg, Russia from 1994-2007. At the time of the project’s inception, the mortality for cardiac surgery was at an unacceptably high rate of approximately 15-18%. By 2007, the mortality rate had plummeted to 1-2% which is similar to our statistics in the U.S. The first project under the auspices of Hearts Around the World, Inc. is at Choray Hospital in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. With our assistance, the Vietnamese physicians have lowered their surgical mortality, dramatically improved their skills in the cardiac catheterization laboratory and developed entirely new programs in areas such as electrophysiology and stress echocardiography. Similar projects are also underway in Dalian, China and Nairobi, Kenya. For the past 2-3 years, Hearts Around the World, Inc. has also partnered with Crudem, another U.S. based nonprofit organization that operates Hospital Sacre Couer in Milot, Haiti. We have begun to make significant strides forward in assisting the local internists and cardiologist in caring for their patients with high blood pressure, congestive heart failure and rheumatic heart disease. All of these projects have resulted in thousands of lives saved and a better quality of life for many more.