Heart disease is Bermuda’s number one killer—but it doesn’t have to be. There are two highly effective ways for all Bermudians to protect their heart health: lifestyle choices and early detection. The best decisions about tobacco and alcohol use, nutrition, body weight and physical activity go a long way toward decreasing the risk for cardiac disease. So does having a caring and trusting relationship with a medical professional who can both screen for and treat heart disease.
That’s the role that Dr Christopher Irobunda plays in his patients’ lives. With an emphasis on patient-centred care, Dr Irobunda is known for his curiosity, compassion and humour when it comes to patient relationships. His approach is to listen first, understand each person’s story and authentically engage with everyone in his care. It’s stressful enough to be managing a heart condition—Dr Irobunda ensures he will not be an added stressor in any patient’s life. “I believe it is an honour to be a part of people’s lives when they are in need of medical care,” he says. “I am passionate about what I do as a physician, but it can’t just be about the science and the cardiology specialisation. Trust and compassion come first. Not only does that create positive relationships it helps with accurate diagnosis and for patients, improves compliance with their medical regimen and follow-up care. In my view, it’s not enough to offer patients only medical knowledge.”
That said, Dr Irobunda’s medical experience and knowledge are vast. A full-time faculty member and assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, he is attending physician at New York-Presbyterian Hospital (NYPH) and on staff at the CORE Heart Health Center at the Bermuda Heart Foundation. The BHF’s mission is to reduce heart-related illnesses by advocating, supporting and promoting cardiovascular health. That mission fits perfectly with Dr Irobunda’s continuing work with Global Patient Services at NYPH in developing cardiac outreach programmes. At the CORE Center, he provides cardiac screening and testing, education, second opinions and management of routine cardiac issues. And with his access to NYPH, Bermudians with complex heart issues who require tests and procedures not available in Bermuda have easy access and the option to travel to New York for advanced medical care. “It’s a privilege to be able to offer patients the best of two worlds: the care provided by the CORE Center here in Bermuda and the cutting-edge medical services available at NYPH. The New York staff are fantastic at handling referrals, working with local insurance companies, finding accommodation in New York City—everything needed to receive exceptional care abroad.”
Since the arrival of the pandemic, Dr Irobunda has been concerned about changes in people’s lives that increase their risk for cardiac disease and that make expert health care even more of a necessity. “The pandemic has created tremendous stress in the lives of many people and in some cases has led to eating more, not exercising, drinking more alcohol than usual, smoking cigarettes, and greater levels of depression. All of these factors play a damaging role in cardiac health—just as positive changes in lifestyle play a protective role.”
The CORE Center provides the extra support people need in managing their heart health during stressful times and perfectly complements Dr Irobunda’s focus on patient-centred care. The Center emphasises prevention through education, exercise, nutrition and behavioural support. In addition, the team takes a holistic approach to health and, like Dr Irobunda, connects to the whole person. They believe the best medical care is also the best people care. “It comes back to relationships,” says Dr Irobunda. “The best thing we can do for our physical and mental health is to connect to others who understand us and care about us. That’s how I work and how the CORE Center works. The meaning of what we do comes from partnering with patients to help improve their lives. To me, that’s what medicine is all about. Not just the most advanced tests, the right diagnoses and successful procedures, though of course those are vital. But in the end, medical care is enhanced when people feel heard, respected and understood.”
Taking care of people’s emotional well-being along with their physical health is how Dr Irobunda and the CORE team put their own hearts into everything they do.
NewYork -Presbyterian Hospital, ranked #1 in NY, features the top cardiology & heart surgery hospital in the Northeast.