Advanced Care Close To Home

“Advanced care close to home is defined by the best people, the best teams, and the best partners, working together in an environment that delivers consistent, high-quality care,” says John T. Sullivan, MD, MBA, SVP & Chief Medical Officer at St. Clair Health.

Another key element: superb training.

“Our highly-skilled experts are surrounded by a passionate team across many disciplines that excels in coordinating care for every patient,” he says. “We’re committed to providing the best care, and we have the best in the world right at our fingertips through our collaboration with Mayo Clinic.”

Dr. Sullivan, whose background includes more than 15 years of progressively responsible experience in leading academic institutions and over three decades of service as a Medical Officer in the United States Navy, joined St. Clair in 2017.

“Our entire organization has long prided itself on its culture of continuous learning and a relentless pursuit of industry-leading performance,” he says. Dr. Sullivan’s stewardship has been focused on continuing to elevate St. Clair’s specialized programs.

“As we recruit and develop the best people within that established culture, we focus on offering innovation and best practices across all of our services,” he says. “In orthopedics, that might mean the most contemporary approaches to joint replacement; our cardiovascular team consistently delivers the same-day-discharge transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR). At St. Clair, truly innovative examples exist across service lines, and division leaders are in lockstep to establish targeted goals and deliver even more integrated solutions that take patient care to the next level.”

An uncommon bond shapes the cardiovascular team at St. Clair Health.

“We don’t just work closely, we work constructively,” says Andy C. Kiser, MD, MBA, FACS, FACC, FCCP, Physician-in-Chief of Cardiovascular Services at St. Clair Health. “Wherever your challenge presents on the spectrum of potential treatments, what we’re most concerned with is figuring out the best way to treat your specific needs. One of the most refreshing things about St. Clair is that our communication and collaboration is entirely focused on helping each patient reach the very best decision for their care.”

Dr. Kiser, who also serves as Western Pennsylvania Society of Thoracic Surgeons (WPASTS) President, joined St. Clair in 2018 after more than three decades of distinguished teaching and surgical leadership in both university and healthcare system settings. He points to the intellectual maturity of his team as a key to leading the region forward.

“Our reputation for clinical excellence enables us to be more than just elite on our own—we can lead by building bridges far beyond our own walls and accomplish even more.” Here, Dr. Kiser dovetails directly into the annual Pittsburgh Heart Summit, whose steering committee comprises leaders from UPMC and AHN right alongside St. Clair Health. “We’re driven to create alliances that improve patient care and outcomes—for everyone,” he says. “By empowering our teams and fostering connectivity, we enhance the Greater Pittsburgh Medical Community.”

In 2024, those cutting-edge insights will be delivered live through interactive roundtable discussions at home plate of PNC Park.

“What really stands out to me—I could break down every single member of our team and talk about something truly outstanding in their specialty,” he says. “From electrophysiology to women-led initiatives in cardiac medicine across every facet and function of the heart. But just like the spirit of The Summit, our people are uniquely focused on how they bring it all together. Their commitment to each other is how we built a Pulmonary Embolism Response Team (PERT) in conjunction with our partners in Emergency Medicine and Critical Care. What makes St. Clair different is that spirit of always-on togetherness.”

Raye J. Budway, MD, FACS, Director of St. Clair Hospital Breast Care Center, is leading in the same fashion through the High Risk Breast Program, where a team of specialists combine their expertise with advanced technology—including an innovative risk calculator tool that identifies high-risk patients before they’re even diagnosed.

Dr. Budway, who joined St. Clair in 2011 after more than 15 years of directing surgical intensive care throughout the region, also serves as Co-Chair of the St. Clair Hospital Cancer Committee.

“Capturing cases before they even exist is a key that helps us take a proactive approach,” she says. “It’s strategic from a clinical perspective, and, just as important, helps unlock much-needed peace of mind as we establish your care plan.”

The Tyrer-Cuzik Risk Assessment Calculator—used with every patient who comes to St. Clair for a screening mammogram—is based on a questionnaire that includes family history and other risk factors.

“Helping you understand exactly where you are helps us get you exactly where you want to go,” says Dr. Budway. “And patients who are identified as high-risk can then be guided through more concentrated screenings and treatment plans.”

Clinical support. A closer eye on breast health. Catching cancer earlier to give you a much better chance at survival.

“An annual breast screening MRI is St. Clair’s most sensitive noninvasive examination for the detection of breast cancer,” says Dr. Budway.

“The added care and support provided by breast care specialists is invaluable to patients who present with a higher risk and need to be followed more closely. At St. Clair Health, you’re not a number—you become part of a tight-knit community where our top priority is providing the best possible care, clinically curated to address your medical and personal needs.”

Kevin P. Bordeau, MD, a urologist with St. Clair Medical Group, echoes that sentiment wholeheartedly.

“If you look at the arc of urologic robotic surgery—and cancer care in general—at St. Clair, one of the most exciting elements is that we’ve consistently expanded our expertise,” he says. “Honing the processes and techniques required for one procedure always inspires the team to want to do even more for our patients.”

Dr. Bordeau points to the intimate attention to detail of St. Clair Health urologists as a prime example concerning prostate cancer.

“The whole care team is looking at the whole patient—and their family—at every turn, in order to ensure that we’re not just attacking the problem you’re facing when you come in, but also setting you up for success to achieve your life goals,” he says. “We utilize an intraoperative nerve monitoring system to evaluate the location of nerves that run alongside the prostate, which is critical to help patients regain urinary control and erectile function after surgery.”

Smaller incision. Greater precision. Increased vision and control. The state-of-the-art da Vinci® Surgical System helps reduce blood loss during surgery, shortens recovery time, and decreases both post-operative pain and administration of associated medications.

This is especially true with robotic radical cystectomy—essentially removing the entire bladder—for treatment of muscle-invasive bladder cancer.

“90 percent of bladder cancer can be treated locally with procedures conducted through a scope to remove your tumor,” he says. “But when it grows roots in the wall of the bladder, that creates a more involved treatment plan— one that historically was completed with a large incision—to evaluate whether those roots have also connected to the kidneys,” he says. “Our minimally invasive tools and techniques allow us to both remove the bladder and reroute ureters through a dramatically smaller incision.”

Using the most advanced technology to perform delicate and complex operations that ease the strain on patients is the standard at St. Clair Health.

“Innovation is the expectation,” says Dr. Bordeau. “Medicine constantly evolves and we have to adapt with it. A doctor’s expertise puts them on a pedestal, and they have to work diligently to earn that prestige—not just through state-of-the-art technology, but by building trust with each patient.”

Dr. Bordeau’s vision for the future of advanced care close to home is as clear as his line of sight inside the da Vinci.

“This is my nineteenth year at St. Clair. I’ve been humbled to serve as Medical Staff President and on the St. Clair Medical Group Board of Directors,” he says. “As a strategic leader, what I’m most excited about is education—the residency programs where we’ll be training the next generation of doctors that will fuel our culture of continuous learning for years to come.”

A challenge for the next generation will be redirecting some of the focus of medical education toward community-based care.

Historically, the majority of education for medical students and resident physicians was based in large, research-oriented institutions in metropolitan areas. As individual health care has become more community and outpatient based, St. Clair Health is perfectly situated to help facilitate education in community health, and bring care to where it is needed first.

Dr. Budway, who also serves as Chief of the Division of General Surgery for Duquesne University’s new College of Osteopathic Medicine (DUQCOM), shares her perspective.

“We have an incredibly diverse, dedicated staff of physicians, nurses, and advanced practice providers that treat, prevent, and care for a wide variety of diseases. Our administrative allies have provided support and direction for this incredibly weighty endeavor. Most importantly, I feel, our patients will be strong
supporters of an initiative that preserves their access to top physicians both now and in the future,” she says.

At St. Clair Health, empowerment extends directly from administration to physician leaders and beyond, infusing system-wide ownership across respective functions.

Robert B. Reynolds, PharmD, Director of Pharmacy, joined St. Clair Health in 2021 after more than a decade in pharmacy management roles at large hospitals in the region and was immediately impressed by the hands-on culture.

“Straight away we knew that in less than six months the COVID-19 booster shots would need to be operationalized,” he says. “And our team would play a critical role in shepherding both employees and the community.”

Concurrently, Reynolds was also made aware early in his tenure just how keen leadership was to examine pharmacywide optimization.

“The pillars of what we do are people, processes, and production,” he says. “The first key was diving deep into where we stood versus our future state goals. It wasn’t just, ‘We need a new robot,’ it was bigger picture thinking, ‘Why and how are we looking at automation?’ Because every choice we make has a potential impact on every phase—robotic, digital, manual—across the entire health system.”

In 1992, St. Clair made history with the launch of McKesson ROBOT-Rx, the first robotic drug distribution system engineered to automate bar-coded medications. Over the course of two decades, the system expanded across the entire medication delivery process.

The results included award-winning care and enhanced patient safety.

Reynolds’ arrival coincided with the grand opening of Dunlap Family Outpatient Center. The completion of the largest construction project in St. Clair history—and arguably its most innovative—had the entire organization rethinking what was possible.

Enter: the Omnicell XR2 Automated Central Pharmacy System and the Omnicell Pharmacy Carousel.

“At the time of installation we were one of only seven healthcare systems in the country to have the whole spectrum of fully-automated medication management,” says Reynolds. “If there’s a recall, then we can call it up in the system and know every single piece of equipment it’s in. But it’s really about being proactive, because what we’re able to offer patients here is safety through peace of mind knowing that we’re 99.9 percent accurate—and typically, the remainder is because of a barcode not scanning upon arrival, which means that product never goes into circulation.”

That safety and efficiency has another profound effect on the St. Clair pharmacy.

“Because we’re more accurate, that time saved creates robust value adds. Now we can have more pharmacy technicians working on units, building and expanding their skillsets,” says Reynolds. “We’re able to create career ladders because our people are working at the highest level of their degrees in tandem
with clinical staff—and in the near future, a pharmacist will be rounding as part of our academic residency program.”

For Reynolds, the future of pharmacy at St. Clair Health is a front row seat to history in the making.

“Now we have a clinical pharmacist dedicated to the Emergency Department. Unit-based clinical pharmacists, staff pharmacists, and clinical specialists,” he
says. “With our enhanced infrastructure, the Pharmacy & Therapeutics Committee can focus on standardizing treatment algorithms and therapies, adding elements to our formula that will keep us at the cutting edge of medicine.”