UCSF opens first Asian Heart & Vascular Center in the U.S.

By Vanessa deGier

Gordon L. Fung, M.D., M.P.H. -----

The first center in the country to serve the specific cardiovascular care needs of Asians in the Bay Area and beyond has opened at UCSF Medical Center.

Special ceremonies launching the UCSF Asian Heart & Vascular Center took place today, Wednesday, May 10.

Both primary care and specialist physicians can refer their patients to the Center, which will focus on advanced heart care treatment that is respectful of the cultural, genetic and physiological differences that distinguish the Asian population.

Asians are one of the fastest growing minority groups in San Francisco and currently make up approximately one third of the city’s population (32.6 percent). While Asian Americans share the same risk factors as the general population, such as high rates of hypertension, obesity, diabetes and smoking, studies have shown important differences in cardiovascular function and outcome in Asian Americans.

“There is a scarcity of programs that cater to Asians culturally, linguistically and medically,” said Gordon Fung, MD, director of the new Center. “Adding to the problem is a lack of clinical data on this population, making it difficult to master-plan research and tailor treatment.”

Fung explained that while cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in many Asian populations, the relationship between risk factors and cardiovascular disease can differ in Asian and Western populations.  “A lack of data in the past has prevented us from fully understanding such differences.  We need cardiovascular prevention and treatment strategies designed for Asian populations,” he said.

The facility, located at UCSF Medical Center at Mount Zion, features a stress echocardiogram lab, patient screening rooms, and an education and research center equipped with staff, computers, and reading materials.  Patients and community members can access the Center to learn about heart disease, prevention and treatment options.  Patients will also receive information and language-appropriate educational materials, and interpreters are on staff and available to speak to patients in their native languages.

In addition, patients have the added benefit of having access to UCSF’s world class facilities for the full spectrum of cardiac services, including diagnostic, surgery, interventional procedures and cardiac rehabilitation.

The UCSF Asian Heart & Vascular Center will also serve as an identified leadership institution to coordinate and plan basic and clinical research efforts as well as plan outreach and education in the Asian communities around the Bay Area.  It also will pool funding resources to support program activities with community partners to decrease health disparities in the Asian community.

“As the population steadily increases, the need for cardiovascular specialists who can understand, communicate and treat this community for heart disease is increasingly important,” added Fung.