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Cardiologist, Would-be Architect

Dr. David Fell has many professional designations, but there is one he does not, though probably should: architect. Dr. Fell is, without a doubt, the architect of the Regional Cardiac Care Program at Southlake Regional Health Centre. While he would NEVER say it, the 1.5 million people who can rest easy knowing they have access to cardiac care that is second-to-none owe him a debt of gratitude.

Dr. Fell received his medical degree at Queen’s University in 1981, his internal medicine certification in 1986, his subspecialty certification in cardiology in 1987 and his fellow of the American College of Cardiology in 1990. Prior to joining Southlake in 1999, he worked as a cardiologist at the Scarborough Grace and Toronto Western hospitals for 12 years and was chief of staff at Scarborough Grace in 1998 and 1999.

He has never wavered from his desire to stay in his home province, choosing to practise in Ontario because this is a place where everyone, regardless of socioeconomic circumstance, can receive health care.

Dr. Fell came to Southlake after the hospital had received the go-ahead from the Ontario government to build a regional cardiac program but before it started to take shape. That was to be his challenge.

“The Toronto hospitals wanted to make Southlake a satellite cardiac care program,” Dr. Fell recalls. “We knew we could make a greater difference to our patients if we did so much more.”

When Dr. Fell arrived, there were two other cardiologists and a promise that the recently approved concept of a regional cardiac centre would move ahead. People who were in the field at the time well remember the derision and skepticism among the medical community regarding that plan. There was no real belief Southlake could ever really make a go of attracting the calibre of physicians necessary for a quality full-service program. Again, that became Dr. Fell’s responsibility.

Dr. Fell developed a regional planning committee with administrative and physician representation from each of the community hospitals this regional program would serve. They met monthly and brought in consultants, experts in their fields, to ensure success from the get-go. Consultants in cardiac surgery, angioplasty, cardiac anesthesia and more had a hand in developing what would, within a decade, become the third busiest cardiac centre in the province.

Much of the program’s success centred around three aspects: building a feeder market, finding a niche in the wide spectrum of cardiac care and attracting great healthcare professionals.

“We met with so many individuals and, with each one, had to sell the potential of what we were dreaming,” Dr. Fell recalls. The final step was to find an area where the hospital could make a name for itself.

“We made a strategic decision to have a fully developed electrophysiology program,” Dr. Fell says. Interestingly, the course of that development was charted on the back of a napkin during a conference in Vancouver.

Electrophysiology is a field devoted to the research and treatment of heart rhythm disorders (arrhythmia). At that time, people with heart rhythm problems were being treated with drugs that were not very effective.

“That was pivotal because the other centres were not focusing on this area and we felt that patients deserved access to this new, innovative field of medicine,” he adds. “With technology advancing this area rather quickly, we saw the potential and made electrophysiology an important priority.”

Ultimately, these decisions, and the decision to create specialized patient care teams, have led to the current success of Southlake’s internationally renowned Regional Cardiac Care Program. Dr. Fell credits many of his colleagues and former administrative leaders for past achievements, including vice-presidents, Patricia Norman and Dr. Louis Balogh and director of the cardiac program, Janis Klein.

Over the past 12 years, the cardiac program has grown to a team of more than 45 physicians, 310 nurses; 9 nurse practitioners, and 40 allied health care professionals.

Recently Dr. Fell became Southlake’s Vice-President, Patient Experiences, Regional Cancer and Cardiac Programs. Based on his proven track record and strong leadership skills, it’s safe to say these programs are in great hands.

Over the past decade, the cardiac program has grown to a team of more than 45 physicians, 310 nurses; 9 nurse practitioners, and 40 allied health care professionals, including technicians, technologists, perfusionists, physiotherapists, dietitians, pharmacists, respiratory therapists, social workers, dietitians and an occupational therapist. The team is also supported by clerical personnel and volunteers.


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Southlake Regional Health Centre
596 Davis Drive, Newmarket, Ontario   L3Y 2P9
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