Vascular Screening at CaroMont Heart

Honaker, Andrea. 2015, Screenings keep hearts healthy, The Gaston Gazette, Monday, February 21, Health 1D.

Hearts are breaking across the country, and it has nothing to do with a disastrous Valentine’s Day. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 600,000 Americans die each year from heart disease, which is the top killer for men and women. Additionally, strokes claim 130,000 lives annually.

But, a 15-minute workup could make all the difference, as it did for Bessemer City resident Larry Stone. A preventative cardiovascular screen uses three non-invasive tests to provide a better understanding of a person’s health. CaroMont Heart at CaroMont Regional Medical Center in Gastonia has been offering the service for about two years.

During the screening, a vascular surgery technician uses an ultrasound to look at the patient’s carotid arteries, which are the major arteries in the neck, and the abdominal aorta, the largest artery in the abdomen. Then, blood pressure cuffs are put on the legs to measure circulation, said Dr. Paul Kochupura, a vascular surgeon at CaroMont Heart. Twelve-hour fasting is recommended prior to the tests.

“It is a very fast, very focused examination done by highly trained individuals,” Kochupura said. “We’re just trying to heighten awareness of vascular disease in the community, (and the) services we provide for folks if they are concerned. It’s another avenue for addressing their health.”

Right after the workup, the person receives their results, which determine the risk for heart disease, stroke, peripheral artery disease, aneurismal disease and other health conditions. The patient will be referred for treatment if the data is abnormal or if diseases are revealed.

“We’ve done a couple hundred of these (screenings) here. We’ve had a few instances where we’ve screened folks and found people with significant blocks that required surgery,” Kochupura said. Stone, 57, was one of those patients. In January 2013, CaroMont’s
wellness bus offered screenings at Pharr Yarns, where he is a fitting room technician. He didn’t initially sign up because he wasn’t having any health problems, but then he changed his mind.

“I ended up being the worst one in the plant,” Stone said. “(The screening) definitely saved my life. I was 99 percent blocked.” The technician saw that Stone had a bad artery blockage on his left side and called to make him an appointment for further testing, which the technician pushed to be scheduled as soon as possible. A doctor saw him the next day, and he had surgery in March 2013. On Friday, Stone stopped by CaroMont Heart for his fourth sixmonth checkup, which included an ultrasound. He received a good report and will only have to be seen yearly from now on. He said he’s lost a little weight and eats healthier foods now.

In general, the highest-risk patients for heart issues are men older than 65 who have ever smoked, Kochupura said. However, earlier screening may be beneficial to those with a family history of disease. Stone said his brother died of an aneurism, and his mother had artery disease. After the results of his cardiovascular screen, he talked his other brother into being tested, too.

“When you get up in age, have that checked. It’s well worth the money,” Stone said, adding that he only had to cover his co-pay and his insurance took care of the rest.

People don’t have to go through their primary care physician to get the preventative tests done; they can just make an appointment with CaroMont Heart.

Kochupura said the results from the cardiovascular screening can encourage people to take their health more seriously.

“It’s useful for them to know that they should really consider adjusting their risk factors to improve their overall health,” he said. “I think it really is an opportunity for folks to participate in their health care. It causes them to put a focus on their health in terms of how they live their life.”

Want to get screened?
Call 704-671-7434 to make an appointment for a cardiovascular screening with CaroMont Heart. To bring CaroMont’s wellness bus to your business or group, call 704-834-3408.

Physician Stays on the Forefront of Medicine to Help Save Lives

Helping people is something Omer Shedd, MD, FACC, FHRS, does every day, but it’s not often that he’s able to help hundreds of people in a single week. Dr. Shedd, Cardiologist at CaroMont Heart, recently traveled to Haiti to work on a pacemaker implantation program for the less fortunate citizens of Haiti.

Currently, there is no help for patients who lack means to pay for a pacemaker. As a result, many people are left with a poor quality of life or in dire situations, may die. Dr. Shedd is developing a program to provide much needed pacemakers and to train medical teams in Haiti how to implant pacemakers, as well as manage and care for these patients.

Dr. Shedd specializes in cardiology and electrophysiology. He, along with his colleague, Gregory Woo, MD, was instrumental in bringing Cryoablation, a cutting-edge procedure to treat atrial fibrillation, to CaroMont Health, which earned regional attention and the “Advancements in Healthcare” award by the Charlotte Business Journal in 2014.

Dr. Shedd received his medical training from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and is board-certified in Cardiovascular Disease and Electrophysiology.

To learn more about Cryoablation, click here.

CaroMont Health Board of Directors Accepts New Amendment to Lease Agreement with Gaston County

Gaston County Board of Commissioners will now vote to solidify deal

The Board of Directors of CaroMont Health and the Gaston County Board of Commissioners have come to an agreement that will amend the existing lease for the structure and property that houses CaroMont Regional Medical Center. The amendment defines financial contributions that CaroMont Health will make to Gaston County to enable the hospital to continue operating at its current location at 2525 Court Drive in Gastonia.

William “Gus” Anthony, Chair of the CaroMont Health Board of Directors, communicated the acceptance of the terms to Tracy Philbeck, Chairman of the Gaston County Board of Commissioners. The amendment includes a significant increase in financial contributions to the County, as well as other commitments that support health services and economic development initiatives in Gaston County. In return, the amended lease will grant new governance and business freedoms to CaroMont Health. The Gaston County Board of Commissioners will vote to accept the amendment during a special meeting on March 12, 2015.

“Over the last eight months, we (the Board of Directors at CaroMont Health) have worked with Gaston County to develop and refine this offer to ensure it will provide benefit to the citizens of Gaston County,” said Anthony. “This agreement will strengthen the financial state of the County and also allow CaroMont Health to finally feel confident that we are in a position to retain our long-term stability as an independent health system.”

Jason Williams, Gaston County Commissioner and liaison to the CaroMont Health Board, noted the incredible cooperation it has taken to get to this point. “This is a positive step for Gaston County and for CaroMont Health,” said Williams. “The strength of our partnership will ensure that our citizens, their children and their grandchildren will continue to benefit from having a local, independent health system dedicated to investing in the community and the lives of its citizens.”

The agreement:

CaroMont Health will make the following payments and provide the following benefits to Gaston County:

  • CaroMont Health will make a one-time, $20 million payment to Gaston County on the effective date of the amendment.
  • Over the next decade, CaroMont Health agrees to make $200 million in campus-based capital investments and will use its best efforts and reasonable business judgment to ensure that local contractors and construction workers are preferred for associated jobs.
  • CaroMont Health will contribute $450,000 per year for community health promotion and investment in the development of active lifestyle options in Gaston County. Such payments will be directed by the Board of Commissioners, provided that CaroMont Health’s current support of multiple community health projects are recognized.

Gaston County agrees to the following revisions of the terms and conditions of the current lease agreement:

  • The term of the agreement will extend through 2055 (40 years).
  • The CaroMont Health Board of Directors and the Gaston County Board of Commissioners will share governance and appointments to the CaroMont Board.
  • The right to make business decisions on financing and joint venture arrangements will be transferred to the CaroMont Health Board of Directors.

What this means for CaroMont Health and Gaston County:

“This agreement creates a solid foundation for growth and development at CaroMont Health,” said Doug Luckett, President and CEO of CaroMont Health. “Our goal has always been to be a provider of high-quality health care, while contributing to our community. The financial contributions from this agreement will help support education, spur economic development in the County and fund needed health services, among other projects and functions. We see this as an investment in the future of Gaston County and its citizens.”

The intent of the agreement is to end more than a decade of ongoing discussion and negotiation between the Commission and CaroMont Health, something that both sides have been eager to do for quite some time.

“Our relationship with the Commission continues to be very positive, and that is a testament to the work being done on both sides to build trust and strong relationships,” said Luckett. “I’ve spoken a lot recently about the importance of remaining independent to keep healthcare services and jobs in our community. With this long-term agreement in place, we can have the surety to invest in the property and build a better platform for advanced health care offerings in Gaston County.”

“I am so pleased with the work we have done to bring this lease to close on behalf of Gaston County and its citizens,” said Philbeck. “We are fortunate to have an outstanding healthcare provider in our community and this deal will help ensure that we keep CaroMont Health here for decades to come.”

The vote and signing of the agreement will take place at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, March 12, 2015 in the Dogwood/Magnolia Rooms at CaroMont Regional Medical Center (2525 Court Drive in Gastonia).

Inclement Weather

Due to the forecasted inclement weather for our area, some CaroMont Health practices or services may not be open or may be operating on reduced schedules. If you have an appointment scheduled, please call ahead to make sure they are open.  Stay safe!

Q&A with Dr. Letts, Cardiologist

A passion for learning and sharing that knowledge for the betterment of others is what inspired Dustin Letts, MD, to go into the medical field and specialize in Cardiology. “Cardiology provides many ways to impact almost every patient making every day very different from the last. The immediate gratification of treating a patient having a heart attack in the cath lab is very different – but no less rewarding in the long run – than effectively treating a patient with resistant hypertension.”

Dustin Letts, MD, is a Cardiologist at CaroMont Heart, Suite 300. He obtained his medical degree from Mercer University School of Medicine and is board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine, Cardiovascular Disease and Interventional Cardiology.

Why did you decide to become a physician?
I have always enjoyed the feeling of learning something then using that knowledge to help someone feel better. I never sat down and really planned a career; I just remember always wanting to be a physician and found my way through training into cardiology.

How did you become interested in cardiology?
I had several of my mentors in medical school and residency that were cardiologists. They seemed to really enjoy their work and demonstrated the type of physician that I wanted to be – someone who was extremely dedicated to their patients and worked hard to help improve the quality of others’ lives through a variety of procedures and applying the knowledge they had gained. Cardiology provides a lot of ways to impact almost every patient so that every day is very different from the last. The immediate gratification of treating a patient having a heart attack in the cath lab is very different – but no less rewarding – in the long run than effectively treating a patient with resistant hypertension.

What are some of the conditions you treat?
Coronary artery disease, peripheral vascular disease, hypertension and hyperlipidemia

Why did you choose to practice at CaroMont Heart?
My family and I really enjoy living in Gastonia. The people in this community are very interconnected. The physicians in the area are extremely caring and easy to work with as well.

What are some of your hobbies/interests?
I have three girls, so when I am not working, they occupy most of my time. Outside of that, running is probably my favorite hobby. It is my way to decompress and relieve the stress from the day.

Physician Spotlight: James Greelish, MD

A desire to become a physician was rooted in his firsthand observation of the crippling power of disease and the potential of medicine to improve the lives of others. When asked why he chose cardiac surgery as a career, James Greelish, MD, said [cardiac surgery] “is a field in which you literally get to save lives and can dramatically extend a person’s life expectancy and quality of life.” Read more about Dr. Greelish’s story below:

Why did you decide to become a physician?
My older brother, Billy, was born with Duschenne’s muscular dystrophy and was severely disabled and wheelchair bound. Caring for him growing up was just part of our normal routine.  In so doing, however, I watched how disease can take a young life. You can’t experience something like that and not have it deeply affect you. Tragically, my brother died at the tender age of 25, just weeks before I started medical school. I took my emotions surrounding his death and channeled it into my studies.  It was therapeutic and a productive way to grieve.

How did you become interested in this field of medicine?
The field of cardiac surgery demands excellence, both technically in the operating room and intellectually.  I liked the intensity of the challenge the field would provide.  Cardiac surgery is a field in which you literally get to save lives and can dramatically extend a person’s life expectancy and quality of life.  I feel very privileged to be part of a team that is able to do this as a profession.

What are some of the conditions you treat?
Coronary artery disease (blocked arteries that cause heart attacks), diseases that effect the valves of the heart and make them too narrow or leak (aortic, mitral, tricuspid), certain types of aortic aneurysms, pulmonary embolisms (clots in the lung) and lung cancer.  Pulmonary embolectomies (removing the clot from the lung) is a particularly satisfying operation for me, as my father died at age 51 from a pulmonary embolus while I was a third-year medical student.

Why did you choose to practice at CaroMont Heart?
CaroMont recruited me from Vanderbilt University where I was an Associate Professor in October 2010.  The opportunity to be in the Charlotte area and work with a outstanding team of progressive physicians and administrators was just too good an offer to turn down!

What are some of your hobbies/interests?
I enjoy reading, traveling, skiing and exercising.  I actually completed a half marathon a couple of years ago. My primary interest in life are my children, Cameron 19, Caroline 17, and Kate 11.  They really nourish me and keep me young (well, I guess sometimes they age me too).

Q&A: Robert Zickler, MD, at CaroMont Heart

Why did you decide to become a physician?
The greatest honor and responsibility in life is to serve others. I cannot think of a more rewarding profession than to be entrusted with someone’s care. As a physician, I am proud and honored to have the privilege in making a difference in someone’s life.

How did you become interested in Vascular Surgery?
I became interested in vascular surgery during my general surgery residency. I sensed a growing need for vascular surgery created by the aging population in the United States. Vascular surgery is a rapidly growing specialty but remains underrepresented at the present time.

What are some of the conditions you treat?
My clinical expertise is in the treatment and care of patients with vascular disease. I have a special interest in the following areas of diagnosis and treatment: Limb salvage surgery including, surgical and endovascular treatment of lower extremity Peripheral Arterial Disease, Abdominal Aortic Aneurism (AAA) repair and aortic stent grafting, Carotid Artery disease and lower extremity venous disease including venous insufficiency and venous stasis ulcers.

Why did you choose to practice at CaroMont Health?
CaroMont is the health care leader in our community. It has many dedicated professionals with the primary goal to provide outstanding patient care. I enjoy being a part of the CaroMont team.

What are some of your hobbies/interests?
I like to spend my free time with my wife and four children; most of the time this involves enjoying an outside activity whether going for a walk or one of the many motor sport events in Charlotte. I believe in being physically fit so I also frequent the gym.

CaroMont Regional Recognized with Quality Achievement Award for Heart Failure

CaroMont Regional Medical Center has received the Get With The Guidelines®–Heart Failure Gold-Plus Quality Achievement Award for implementing specific quality improvement measures outlined by the American Heart Association/American College of Cardiology Foundation secondary prevention guidelines for heart failure patients.

This marks the fifth year that CaroMont Regional Medical Center has been recognized with a quality achievement award.

Get With The Guidelines®–Heart Failure is a quality improvement program that helps hospital teams provide the most up-to-date, research-based guidelines with the goal of speeding recovery and reducing hospital readmissions for heart failure patients.

CaroMont Regional Medical Center earned the award by meeting specific quality achievement measures for the diagnosis and treatment of heart failure patients at a set level for a designated period. These measures include proper use of medications and aggressive risk-reduction therapies such as cholesterol-lowering drugs, beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors, aspirin, diuretics and anticoagulants while patients are in the hospital. Before patients are discharged, they also receive education on managing their heart failure and overall health, as well as referrals for cardiac rehabilitation.

“We are pleased to recognize CaroMont Regional Medical Center for their commitment to heart failure care,” said Deepak L. Bhatt, M.D., M.P.H., national chairman of the Get With The Guidelines® steering committee and Executive Director of Interventional Cardiovascular Programs at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. “Studies have shown that hospitals that consistently follow Get With The Guidelines®quality improvement measures can reduce patients’ length of stays and 30-day readmission rates and also reduce disparity gaps in care.”

According to the American Heart Association, about 5.1 million people suffer from heart failure. Each year, 670,000 new cases are diagnosed and more than 275,000 people will die of heart failure. However, many heart failure patients can lead a full life when their condition is managed with proper medications and devices and with healthy lifestyle changes.

Cooking for Your Sweetheart

Cooking for Your Sweetheart was a sold-out event last Thursday, February 12 at Discover YOU! in Mount Holly with nearly 40 attendees from the community. Hosted by CaroMont Health, the heart-healthy cooking demonstration offered guests a chance to learn about the importance of nutrition in supporting a healthy heart, all the while being able to sample freshly prepared recipes just in time for Valentine’s Day.

Cardiologist Laddeus L. Sutton, MD, at CaroMont Heart, talked about the role that a healthy diet and lifestyle serve as the best weapons in the fight against heart disease and how to make smart food choices to benefit your heart and your overall health. Jeff Acheson, Executive Chef at the Round Bistro, prepared delicious entrees from the American Heart Association® cookbook, featuring baked salmon over blueberry salad with goat cheese and lemon vinaigrette dressing, grilled filet mignon over lemon herb couscous and wilted mustard spinach and dark chocolate sabayon fruit parfait.

Cooking for Your Sweetheart was funded by the CaroMont Health Foundation. CaroMont Health provides a number of community education and outreach events throughout the year. To learn more about upcoming events like this one, please follow CaroMont Health on Facebook or visit Discover YOU!,

The Heart of the Matter

February is national Heart Health Awareness Month and with our New Year’s resolutions fading into the rear view mirror, cold weather keeping us inside and waistlines expanding, its seems timely to discuss heart health. Heart disease remains the number one cause of death in men and women in Gaston County and the United States. However, heart disease can be delayed and even prevented by adopting a healthy lifestyle that incorporates proper nutrition, physical activity, smoking cessation and the recommended amount of sleep each night.


A healthy diet is the cornerstone to a heart-healthy life. If you are not already eating a healthy diet, the decision to eat healthier should be gradual but also long-lasting. A diet that over-emphasizes certain foods and completely excludes others is not healthy or sustainable. The American Heart Association recommends a dietary pattern that encourages a majority of calories from fruits, vegetables and whole grains, moderate consumption of fish and nuts, and minimizes simple sugars, salt and fat. Our overall goal should be to achieve a body mass index below 25. This index is based on your height and weight, and can be calculated utilizing smartphone apps and online tools such “BMI Calculator.”

Physical Activity

Due to the daily demands of life that leave many of us pressed for time, the last thing we find time for is exercise. A sedentary lifestyle raises a person’s risk of developing heart disease and other health conditions. The human body is designed to move, which is why physical activity is critical to maintaining good health. It’s important to incorporate activity slowly and build up to your exercise capacity. Starting too aggressively can lead to burnout and even worse, injury.  The recommended goals for daily physical activity include, 30 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity five times per week or 25 minutes of vigorous activity three times per week, and moderate to high intensity strength training twice a week.


Smoking is toxic to our bodies and overall health. In addition to the numerous cancer-causing substances found in cigarettes, nicotine and carbon monoxide directly injure the blood vessels, which lead to blockages in the arteries and subsequently, heart attacks and strokes. Smoking is very addictive both chemically and psychologically, making it very difficult to quit.

Quitting smoking is not an act but rather a process that begins with making a commitment to break the habit followed by a period of preparation. This process includes setting a quit date, choosing a method or aid to help with quitting, removing triggers from your home (cigarette lighters and ashtrays) and enlisting the help of friends and family to hold you accountable. Tell those around you your quit date and your method for quitting. If you live with someone who smokes, encourage them to join in you in your pursuit to stop smoking. A person’s success rate increases if all members of a household are smoke-free.

CaroMont Health offers a tobacco cession program called Quit Smart. To learn more, call 704.671.7936.


Inadequate sleep is not only annoying, but it can contribute to health problems. A number of factors contribute to sleep deprivation, which continues to grow to epidemic proportions in our society. We’ve known for years that untreated sleep apnea leads to the development of heart disease. More recently, research shows that any chronic cause of sleep deprivation (less than 6 to 7 hours per night) leads to increased blood pressure, higher caloric intake and a decline in mental function. Additionally and due to the digital age in which we live, insomnia has now been linked to using electronic devices prior to bedtime. Ideally, devices should be shut down at least one hour before going to bed to ensure we get adequate rest each night. Sleep apnea is a serious medical condition. If you or a loved is having difficulty sleeping, particularly if you’re overweight or are snoring excessively, it is important to talk to a medical professional.

Leading a healthy lifestyle isn’t always easy, but it’s achievable. The key is to take the first step towards heart health and the subsequent steps will get easier.

This article was provided by Michael Tamberella, MD, an Interventional Cardiologist at CaroMont Heart in Gastonia. Dr. Tamberella was instrumental in pioneering a cutting-edge cardiac stem cell clinical trial at CaroMont Health. The study earned the Charlotte Business Journal’s 2013 Excellence in Healthcare award.

Healing People

Leading the way in quality care, CaroMont Health believes in treating everyone with respect, having open and responsible communication, never compromising integrity, and highly values customer satisfaction. Patients can come to CaroMont Health with the utmost trust and confidence that our staff is hard at work pushing the edge of medical science and saving lives. In 2010, we achieved HealthGrades Distinguished Hospital for Clinical Excellence. And our Cancer Center won the Outstanding Achievement Award from the American College of Surgeons Commission.

Gaston Memorial Hospital

Magnet Award
Health Grades Award
CareChex a rating service of The Delta Group

Building Community

We believe that a community’s wellbeing is dependent on everyone contributing and that together we can help our community thrive. By offering special events, sponsoring athletic competitions and attracting great speakers like Dr. Oz, CaroMont Health is creating shared community experiences. CaroMont Health has also developed CaroMontUrgent Care in the Mountain Island lake community, which will save you time without sacrificing the quality of non-emergency care.

Building community banner


CaroMont Health has created support and educational services in a safe, family-centered environment to promote healthy lifestyle choices. By providing a variety of classes focused on topics for men, women, the elderly, newborns and more, CaroMont Health hopes to empower individuals to make a difference. Some classes offered for expectant and new parents for example, enhance the experiences involved in birth and beyond – such as Second Time Around, Moms in Motion, and Infant CPR and Safety.

Wellness services banner