South Denver Cardiology Celebrates its 50th Anniversary
South Denver Cardiology Associates is celebrating its 50th anniversary on June 21st. To commemorate this momentous occasion, we asked one of our founding cardiologists, Dr. Arthur Levene, a few questions about the history of our clinic and the ways in which it has grown over the years.
The Early Days of South Denver Cardiology Associates
Dr. Levene began assisting Dr. John Hutcherson at the Littleton Clinic while completing his fellowship training at the University of Colorado. When he finished his fellowship in 1970, he convinced Dr. Hutcherson to join him in starting their own practice. Dr. Hugh Weily joined the practice in 1972, and they eventually adopted the name South Denver Cardiology Associates in June 1973.
During the first few years, Dr. Levene, Dr. Hutcherson, and Dr. Weily were the primary cardiologists. In the mid-1970s, Dr. John Kimball and Dr. Harvey Schuchman joined the practice, and we kept growing consistently after that. Today, there are approximately 230 employees at South Denver Cardiology, including 27 cardiologists and 20 nurse practitioners.
South Denver Cardiology initially started as an offshoot of the Littleton Clinic before moving to Porter Hospital, where our office was located for many years. In June 2003, we built our current clinic and moved here from Porter Hospital. This building offers patients modern amenities that provide a better overall experience.
Overseeing a Transformational Era in Cardiology
The last half-century has been a remarkable time to be in the field of cardiology, as innovative techniques and treatments have revolutionized the ability to treat cardiac conditions. When we first opened in the early 1970s, our services only covered basic cardiology procedures. At this time, our doctors were treating heart attacks in an antiquated way because most of the modern procedures and techniques hadn’t been developed.
For example, there was no way to open up blocked heart valves at the time. Instead, our doctors had to let a heart attack occur and then manage it with medication. With the advances made over the last 50 years, patients can now undergo procedures that will prevent heart attacks from occurring, resulting in much better outcomes while avoiding the need for invasive surgery.
Our cardiac services gradually expanded as technology improved over the years. The first breakthroughs occurred in the late 1970s with the development of the balloon angioplasty. Our cardiologists went to a lecture by Dr. Andreas Gruentzig, the doctor credited with developing the balloon angioplasty. This lecture introduced our doctors to this brand-new technology. Within a few years, South Denver Cardiology became one of the first practices in the Denver area to perform this procedure.
In the earlier years, Dr. Brack Hattler was a heart surgeon at Colorado Cardiovascular Surgical Associates. At the time, heart surgeons were responsible for putting pacemakers into patients. By the early 1980s, a minimally invasive technique was developed that allowed pacemaker lead wires to be placed without opening up the chest. Dr. Levene would assist Dr. Hattler in procedures to place pacemaker lead wires before this minimally invasive technique was pioneered. Around 1985 or 1986, Dr. Levene became the first cardiologist to perform the entire pacemaker procedure in Colorado.
Interventional cardiology developed in the 1980s. This field utilizes nonsurgical, catheter-based treatments to repair narrowed arteries, damaged or weakened blood vessels, heart valve disorders and congenital heart disease. Early interventional cardiology procedures included balloon angioplasty and eventually stents. This field created a specialty that allowed for a more minimally invasive approach to many heart procedures.
Stents were developed in the mid 1980s to address a variety of issues associated with balloon angioplasty. Dr. Peter Levitt and Dr. Dave Gonzalez started performing stent procedures before anyone at South Denver Cardiology performed them. Dr. Levitt was one of the pioneers of the procedure once stents received FDA approval in 1994. He came to South Denver Cardiology later in his career and worked with our team for about ten years. He brought his extensive experience with stents to our practice, helping our cardiologists improve our patient outcomes for these procedures.
Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR)
Transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) is one of the advances in cardiology that has impressed Dr. Levene the most over the last 50 years. This procedure is performed to replace the aortic valve (the main valve in the heart) without surgery. Dr. Lee MacDonald and Dr. Sean Enkiri with South Denver Cardiology was one of the first practices in Denver to perform TAVR procedures. Over the years, our cardiologists have performed this procedure many times, helping countless numbers of patients avoid serious heart conditions.
The other cardiology innovation that has impressed Dr. Levene is the advent of electrophysiology. This field was introduced in the 1990s. It focuses on the treatment of the heart’s electrical systems which regulate the heart’s rhythms and ensure the different chambers of the heart beat in the proper sequence and rhythm to deliver the proper amount of oxygenated blood throughout the body.
Electrophysiology essentially ushered in the modern age of cardiology, making treatments such as defibrillators and ablations standard practice. Dr. Roger Damle was the first South Denver Cardiology electrophysiologist. He joined the practice after being chief of staff at the University of Colorado. Dr. Damle has built our electrophysiology program into one of the finest along the Front Range.
A Dedicated Staff Consisting of Long-Tenured Cardiologists
Dr. Levene has been impressed by the fact that very few cardiologists have left South Denver Cardiology over the years. This has allowed us to build an excellent practice with highly educated, university trained doctors. Many of these doctors were on the staff at their university before coming to practice at South Denver Cardiology.
Dr. Levene believes we’re able to retain great doctors long term because South Denver Cardiology has created a culture and camaraderie that is unique among cardiology clinics. We’ve developed a business model that was highly valued by our doctors. Whereas many clinics have a culture that forces their cardiologists to compete with one another, the doctors at our clinic are more supportive and respectful of each other’s ability.
The End of an Era Draws Near for Our Founding Doctor
As Dr. Levene was reflecting on his career and the growth of South Denver Cardiology over the years, he also acknowledged that his days of practicing cardiology are coming to an end. His goal is to retire in about a year and a half, completing an illustrious career spanning over five decades.
One of the things he’ll miss the most after retiring is the mental stimulation provided by the job and his patients. He’s seen generations of family members. In fact, one of his current patients is the fourth generation of her family to be treated by Dr. Levene. This continuity and the ability to be an important member of the community is one of the things he finds most fulfilling, and one of the things he will miss the most.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment at South Denver Cardiology Associates, serving the South Denver area and Littleton.
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