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A pioneering FirstHealth of the Carolinas heart surgeon introduced his innovative treatment for long-standing atrial fibrillation during a live June 9 webcast and panel discussion that was viewed by an international audience. An estimated 500 viewers, including some from as far away as Malaysia and Belgium, had watched the webcast presentation within three days of its posting.

Andy Kiser, M.D.

A cardiothoracic surgeon with the FirstHealth Heart Institute, Andy C. Kiser, M.D., developed the Ex-Maze procedure in collaboration with a team of international surgeons. Joining him for the webcast was

Professor Gerhard Wimmer-Greinecker, M.D., Ph.D., professor of cardiac surgery at the JW-Goethe University, Frankfurt, Germany and chairman of the Department for Cardiac and Thoracic Surgery at the Heart & Vascular Centre in Bad Bevensen in Northern Germany. Professor Wimmer-Greinecker and Dr. Kiser performed the world’s first minimally invasive Ex-Maze procedure late last year.

For many years, the “gold standard” for a-fib treatment has been a surgical procedure called the Cox Maze, which requires opening the chest, stopping the heart, cutting it into sections and sewing it back together. Dr. Kiser’s procedure creates an extensive pattern of scar tissue on the surface of the heart and controls the abnormal electrical impulses of atrial fibrillation without the complexity of similar procedures.

At first, Dr. Kiser performed the Ex-Maze only on patients who were having some other type of open-chest procedure such as coronary artery bypass. The minimally invasive Ex-Maze is done through small incisions below the diaphragm and without stopping the heart.

To watch a replay of Dr. Kiser’s webcast on the Ex-Maze procedure, log onto For more information on the Ex-Maze, atrial fibrillation or the webcast, call (800) 213-3284 toll-free.

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What could be more convenient than the ability to pay your bills online? That’s what the Patient Accounts staff at FirstHealth of the Carolinas had in mind with its new Online Bill Pay service.

With just a few keystrokes, payment for services provided at either Moore Regional Hospital, Montgomery Memorial Hospital or Richmond Memorial Hospital is safely and conveniently on its way. There’s no hassle and no postage.

The service, a direct response to patient requests, became available early this year.

“This is another step in our ongoing efforts to ensure a patient-friendly billing system,” says Jeff Casey, FirstHealth’s vice president for Finance. “Soon we will also be offering an online service that will allow our patients to view their entire account while seated at their computer. This will further broaden our ability to communicate with our patients and give them the information they need and want.”

A quick link to Online Bill Pay is easily visible on the left side of the home page of FirstHealth’s Web site ( One click takes visitors to a location where they can either indicate that they want to make a payment or contact Patient Accounts. (Online Bill Pay is also accessible through Accounts & Billing on the home page menu.)

The Online Bill Pay site includes a Frequently Asked Questions page where the visitor can get quick answers to various related questions. Contact information for other physicians who may have been provided services (emergency physicians, anesthesiologists, pathologists and radiologists, for example) can also be found on the Frequently Asked Questions page.

The new bill pay process is simple, requiring only the patient account number, the amount to be paid and the credit card information. All major credit/bank cards are accepted.

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Paramedics in the FirstHealth Regional EMS System respond to 10 to 12 cardiac arrest calls a month. Some of them are in Chatham County, where a recently adopted hypothermia therapy gives patients a much better chance for full recovery.

FirstHealth EMS-Chatham began using the ICED (induced coolant to eliminate deficits) protocol last spring. The unit’s director, Jim Hasbrouck, calls the ICED therapy “one more step in providing care” to patients who have been in cardiac arrest but are found to have a pulse.

“The procedure will give the post-cardiac-arrest patient the best chance of recovering with little or no brain deficits,” he says.

According to Matthew Harmody, M.D., the medical director for FirstHealth Regional EMS, the treatment begins on the ambulance and is continued in a hospital’s emergency room and beyond.

The ICED or hypothermia treatment essentially involves injecting cold saline solution into the veins of a patient whose heart has stopped and then covering the patient with cold blankets until the body temperature drops from the normal level of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit to about 92 degrees. The patient is kept in this mild state of hypothermia (abnormally low body temperature) for 24 hours and then gently allowed to wake up.

Cooling the patient reduces the brain’s need for oxygen, which helps to minimize the damage that can occur after the heart stops and blood flow to the brain is interrupted.

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FirstHealth of the Carolinas has received a grant from the N.C. Health and Wellness Trust Fund (HWTF) to make Pinehurst a “Fit Community.”

The Fit Community program recognizes and rewards North Carolina municipalityand county-led efforts to promote physical activity and healthy eating programs, policies, environments and lifestyles.

The $57,000 grant awarded to FirstHealth, in partnership with Pinehurst Elementary School and the Village of Pinehurst, provides funding over a two-year period that began July 1. It will establish a greenway connection between Pinehurst Elementary School and nearby Cannon Park to encourage “walk-ability.”

The funding will also provide educational programs on safe routes to school, cross walks and incentive programs to increase physical activity.

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Paul Jawanda, M.D., an infectious diseases specialist, has been named Physician of the Year at FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital.

Candidates for the award are nominated by nurses, therapists, pharmacists and other non-physician members of the hospital’s clinical staff. Nominations are sought for physicians who “demonstrate compassionate patient and family care, recognize all health care disciplines as partners in care, help educate and develop other patient care providers, and support team efforts in patient care.”

Paul Jawanda, M.D., accepts the Moore
Regional Hospital Physician of the Year award for 2008 from Linda Wallace, the hospital’s vice president for Patient Care Services and chief nursing officer

Dr. Jawanda excels in all of these areas, according to Jayne Lee, director of Infection Control and Patient Safety at Moore Regional. “He takes the time to sit down with patients and their families and really explain things to them and answer their questions,” Lee says. “He has a wonderful ability to communicate with them, as well as with nurses and the rest of the staff, on their level.”

A native of Michigan, Dr. Jawanda received both his undergraduate and medical degrees from the University of Michigan. He went to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for his residency training in internal medicine and a fellowship in infectious diseases.

He was an attending physician in the Infectious Diseases Clinic at UNC Hospitals before becoming Moore Regional’s first full-time infectious diseases specialist in 2005.

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Nasser A. Askary, M.D.



One of the people who nominated Nasser A. Askary, M.D., for Physician of the Year honors at FirstHealth Richmond Memorial Hospital said simply, “Patients and family, they love him.”

Another said, “Dr. Askary consistently demonstrates genuine care and concern for each patient.” Still another said that Dr. Askary “continually demonstrates compassion … too many occasions to pick just one.”

As Richmond Memorial Hospital’s 2008 Physician of the Year, Dr. Askary embodies FirstHealth of the Carolinas’ core purpose, “to care for people.” He was nominated for the award by members of the RMH medical staff, by hospital employees and by patients.

Ted A. Graham, M.D., Richmond Memorial’s chief of staff, was a member of the committee that reviewed the award nominations. “Although many physicians received nominations for Physician of the Year, Dr. Askary’s were universally positive,” Dr. Graham says. “He received nominations from patients, staff and physicians. Given the large numbers of ballots, exemplary remarks and the years of service that Dr. Askary has provided this consistent level of exceptional care, he was the unanimous selection for this year’s recognition.”

A native of Iran, Dr. Askary has been an obstetrician and gynecologist in Richmond County since 1974. He attended college and medical school at Gondi Shapour University in Ahwaz, Iran, and then completed a rotating internship at Queens Hospital Center and Long Island Jewish Hospital Affiliated in New York.

He did his medical residency and served as chief resident at Queens Hospital Center and Long Island Jewish Medical Center, where he later completed a fellowship in obstetrics and gynecology and infertility.