Erlanger hospital celebrates official opening of Heart and Lung Institute

Erlanger hospital celebrates official opening of Heart and Lung Institute

February 23rd, 2018 by Elizabeth Fite in Local Regional News

From left, Dr. Larry Shears, chief of Cardio-Thoracic surgery; Jack Studer, Erlanger chairman of the board; Kevin Spiegel, Erlanger president; Judy Tingley, vice president and CEO of the Heart and Lung Institute; and Rob Brooks, COO, take part in the opening of Erlanger's new Heart and Lung Institute Thursday.

Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.

Gallery: Erlanger's Heart and Lung Institute officially opens

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Who needs scissors when you have a 1-ton, four-arm, million- dollar robot to cut ribbon for you?

Manning the latest, greatest version of the da Vinci Surgical System, which he normally uses for minimally invasive robotic heart surgery, Dr. Larry Shears cut the ceremonial ribbon that signaled the official opening of the new Heart and Lung Institute at Erlanger Health System on Thursday.

"It will allow me to do anything from repairing mitral valves to doing coronary bypass surgery," said Shears, who is chief of cardiothoracic surgery at Erlanger. "I work in between the rib spaces — I don't break any bones — so the advantage to the patient is they get to go home at an earlier phase."

Behind him was the hybrid operating room, where a da Vinci robot sat beside the Pheno system, which captures detailed images of the heart to help accurately place stents during complex procedures. Together they help repair or replace heart valves, depending on the situation.

"Some patients need more than just a robotic bypass," he said. "As soon as I'm done, the patient can get the stents done in the exact same room using the best technology available. That's the beauty of this whole room — one-stop shopping."

The institute will house all services related to heart and lung care at Erlanger and is one of CEO Kevin Spiegel's visions come to fruition. It took $16 million to renovate the fourth floor of the main Baroness hospital building and create the "hospital within a hospital" that houses three other operating rooms.

Aside from investing in the physical structure and equipment, Erlanger has assembled a team of heart surgeons, thoracic surgeons, interventionalists, cardiologists, pulmonologists, anesthesiologists and other professionals.

Judy Tingley, vice president and CEO of the Heart and Lung Institute, commended the leadership team, recalling it was barely a year ago when the space was "still just a dream."

"Innovative cardiac care, to many, is a challenge, and changing and evolving and making science come to a reality is what we're charged to do," she said. "This infrastructure and this physical plan will stand as a model for many major academic centers in the United States."

Contact staff writer Elizabeth Fite at or 423-757-6673.