Heart and Vascular Institute Marks 10 Years of Care in Honduras

Every year a team of GW medical professionals travel to Honduras to implant pacemakers and defibrillators for patients in need.

November 20, 2019

Practitioners from the George Washington University Heart and Vascular Institute completed the 10th annual Medical Mission to Honduras this fall, providing life-saving pacemakers and defibrillators to patients in need.

The team of medical professionals led by Cynthia Tracy, associate director of the School of Medicine and Health Sciences’ Division of Cardiology, and Marco Mercader, professor of medicine at SMHS, implanted 49 devices during their two-week visit in September. The team was recently honored for their commitment to patient care during an event held at the Organization of American States, sponsored and attended by the Honduran ambassador to the United States. They also received an honorary award from the president of Honduras earlier this fall.

Patients from across Honduras traveled for up to seven hours to receive care during the 2019 mission. A record 342 patients were seen by the team for device follow ups and cardiac evaluations this year. The team has performed 1,842 patient evaluations and implanted 370 pacemakers and defibrillators over the past 10 years.

Dr. Mercader estimates that about 2 percent of the Honduran population is currently being treated for heart arrhythmias. In nine days, the team provides half of the pacemakers and defibrillators implanted annually in Honduras.

The GW team, which includes physicians, cardiology fellows, and residents, works in partnership with medical professionals in Honduras from Centro Medico Comayagua Colonial Hospital.

The need for pacemakers and defibrillators is particularly great in the region, Dr. Mercader said. A parasite transmitted by the Kissing bug attacks the heart muscle and electrical system, which leads to the clinical condition known as Chagas disease. Pacemakers and implantable cardioverter-defibrillators are required as part of the treatment for the disease.

Over the past decade, Dr. Tracy has acquired more than $3 million in donated heart devices and medical equipment. Supporters of the 2019 GW Medical Mission include Medtronic, Abbott, GW University Hospital, Heart Beat International and GW Medical Faculty Associates.

Watch a video that tells you more about the Heart and Vascular Institute’s work:

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