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region leading vascular surgery program


When James Black was 12, he witnessed his father having a heart attack. Fortunately, the incident had some positive outcomes: Two heart surgeries and nearly four decades later, his father is alive and well. Plus, Black says, “It gave me an early introduction into the life-saving portions of medicine and surgery.”

This trauma-turned-inspiration led Black to The Johns Hopkins Hospital, where he is now director of the Division of Vascular Surgery and Endovascular Therapy. Since the launch of Johns Hopkins Aramco Healthcare (JHAH) in 2014, he and other Johns Hopkins Medicine (JHM) experts have worked together with JHAH colleagues to launch a technologically advanced vascular surgery program at Dhahran Medical Center.

Early on, experts from both organizations assessed that it was critical to address the tremendous growth in vascular-related disability and deaths in Saudi Arabia, as in many other industrialized nations.

“One of our primary concentration areas is our cardiovascular and endovascular services,” said Dr. Daniele Rigamonti, JHAH CEO. “We are investing in new capabilities, facilities and programs because we are focused intensely on enhancing and extending these services to continue to meet our patients’ critical health care needs.”

“We are investing in new capabilities, facilities and programs because we are focused intensely on enhancing and extending these services to continue to meet our patients’ critical health care needs.”
Dr. Daniele Rigamonti, JHAH CEO

And so JHAH and JHM began to develop a more comprehensive vascular care program at JHAH, with a focus on providing a noninvasive vascular imaging laboratory and endovascular therapy — all less invasive treatments for diseases of the arteries and veins.

Dr. Black and Dr. Heitham Hassoun, a leading vascular surgeon and global medical director for Johns Hopkins Medicine International, kicked off program development with an initial assessment in March 2014. That October, Hassoun performed the first endovascular aortic aneurysm repair surgery in Saudi Aramco’s healthcare history.

JHM vascular surgeons work very closely with Dr. Wadi Binsaddiq, the head of JHAH’s vascular surgery program; Dr. Ghaith Khougeer; and Dr. Abdulmutalib Masloom, who joined the team last year. Black says, “They are experts at performing more traditional operations and have a great level of comfort with managing vascular patients, and they also wanted to add less invasive endovascular and catheter-based techniques to their skill sets.”

Throughout 2015 and 2016, Black provided advanced vascular training at JHAH and worked with clinicians there to evolve the program. Starting with a visit in September 2015, Black also began to participate in clinical rotations, performing minimally invasive endovascular procedures for JHAH patients. He continues to travel to the Kingdom to perform complicated endovascular surgeries.

About his most recent visit, he said “We had great teamwork from the nurses, technologists, cardiologists, interventional radiologists, vascular surgeons, and all of the cases went very well.”

The program has garnered the support of other JHM experts, including Dr. Christopher Abularrage, also in the vascular program at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, who was in the Kingdom this past March to participate in his first endovascular rotation, overseeing nine cases.

Milestones and Strengths

An important step in growing JHAH’s endovascular program was building a catheterization and noninvasive vascular laboratory to identify patients with vascular disease noninvasively, such as through ultrasound. At the new lab—which launched in October 2016—patients can be diagnosed earlier, and minimally invasive therapies are replacing more complex open vascular procedures.

“They are really invested and want to make this the best place in the region for vascular surgery. That’s our goal, and we are well on our way to doing that.”
Dr. James Black,director of the Division of Vascular Surgery and Endovascular Therapy CEO

Abularrage and Diana Call, technical director at JHM’s noninvasive vascular lab, have also been working closely with Caroline Barker, an experienced registered vascular technologist JHAH recently hired to help run the noninvasive vascular imaging lab. This lab will provide new services and testing for vascular disease, with the goal of becoming the first vascular lab in the Middle East to earn accreditation from the highly respected Intersocietal Accreditation Commission.

“Having modern labs where endovascular surgeons can leverage current treatments means lower risks for complications, less pain and shorter hospital stays for our patients,” Dr. Binsaddiq says. “It’s a true testament to the state-of-the-art cardiac and vascular care JHAH is providing.”

Other major program milestones include continuing surgical training and building a highly functioning staff spanning interventional radiology, cardiology and vascular surgery to draw upon their shared expertise.

Black believes one of the greatest strengths of JHAH’s vascular program is its people. He says, “They are really invested and want to make this the best place in the region for vascular surgery. That’s our goal, and we are well on our way to doing that.”