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Cardiologist team provides rural access to heart health care in Indiana

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Improving rural access to heart health is a major focus for an Ascension St. Vincent cardiology team.

Experts say having support options is vital as many heart problems happen over time rather than right away.

The drive to Linton, Indiana, is a familiar route for cardiologist Dr. Greg Mazanek. He’s made the one-hour, 45-minute drive to Greene County 500 times, making it a near four-hour round trip.

“We have a lot of emphasis on the small, rural communities where there can be a lot of challenges to care.”

He says, for many rural communities, access to health care can be challenging, standing by the idea that medical access shouldn’t be determined based by the county you live in.

“Our mission statement is to take care of patients with a special emphasis on the poor and vulnerable,” Mazanek said. “The rural populations, oftentimes, we take for granted having the gas money to get to the heart center.”

Throw in the need for specialty care, it can get tougher. Linton is predominately a farming city with some smaller industries. It’s a community, he says, that’s used to working hard and may not have the time or means to make it to bigger health centers in Indianapolis.

For 30 years, Ascension St. Vincent, he says, has done the work to expand access. Twice a week, six cardiologists rotate, also making the trip to Linton. With the team, they provide support to 25 patients each visit.

“The image that people have of the person with the elephant sitting on their chest, the worst pain I’ve ever had, that happens during a heart attack. But, how many of the symptoms that lead up to that are things that people don’t always pay attention to?”

He says the indicators for heart problems are often subtle. It can be a little loss of heart function over months, increased shortness of breath, or taking double the time to complete an activity and unusual fatigue.

“We’re able to get to know people, really was good outreach, and small towns you can become part of the community.”