March 1, 2019

Building a cardiac program with heart

The seeds of our top-rated heart program in the Northwest were planted a decade ago with a personalized approach to patient care to deliver the best outcomes.

With warm, dry seasonal weather on the way, David Ford knew it would soon be time to refresh the vast gardens in his yard, and tend to his certified wildlife sanctuary of bobcats, bears, birds, bees, and other creatures.

But, he also knew that if he was going to help his wife, Phi, with the heavy lifting on their outdoor projects, it was time to get serious about the chest pain he had been self-medicating with over-the-counter antacids.

David visited his Kaiser Permanente primary care physician and a cardiologist, who referred him to Yong Shin, MD, chief of cardiovascular surgery at Kaiser Permanente Northwest Center for Heart and Vascular Care in Clackamas, Oregon. David underwent numerous tests so his care team could identify the source of the problem and recommend a treatment that would give him the best outcome.

Trusted expertise

As a retired health care executive, David felt out of his comfort zone in his new role as a patient — but he and Phi did their homework. They were pleased to learn that Dr. Shin had attended Cornell University and trained at Harvard Medical School before leading the launch in 2009 of Kaiser Permanente Northwest’s heart surgery program.

“We learned that Dr. Shin is committed to providing the least intervention possible,” says David. “That resonated with us in a good way.”

The procedure that Dr. Shin performed on David — known as coronary artery bypass grafting — involves removing an artery from the patient’s chest, arm, or leg and creating a detour to improve blood supply to the heart muscle. Patients are usually placed on a heart-lung machine (also called “on-pump”), which permits the surgeon to temporarily stop the heart, and resume it once the graft is completed.

David Ford and his wife, Phi.
David and Phi have more healthy years together thanks to life-saving care from Dr. Yong Shin and team.

Phi said, “When Dr. Shin and Dr. Phillip Lund (anesthesiologist) came out to talk to me in the waiting room, they each had a huge grin and were jumping for joy. I was so relieved, I slept for 9 straight hours!”

A world-class heart surgery program

Building the Northwest’s top-rated heart program took time, dedication, and heart. In Dr. Shin’s words, “We looked at what would be best for patients and their families, and we put them at the center of all our decisions. We created a program where we would feel confident sending our own loved ones.”

He attributes the program’s success to a rigorous focus on multidisciplinary care, evidence-based medicine, recruiting top talent, and teamwork.

“We make every stitch a masterpiece. When patients trust us with their lives, we are obligated to do our very best.”


As for multidisciplinary care, Dr. Shin calls out several specialists that form a patient’s care team, such as surgeons, cardiologists, critical care doctors, hospitalists, physician assistants, nurses, pharmacists, dieticians, care coordinators, social workers, physical therapists, respiratory therapists … and the list goes on. “Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes an entire hospital to have a successful heart program,” he said.

David is grateful for the entire “village” who cared for him, from pre-admission all the way through discharge and follow-up. “All the pieces were knitted together to form a team that functioned flawlessly. This says a lot about the integrity — and the uniqueness — of the program that Dr. Shin and his team have built.”

A privilege and a blessing

Dr. Shin believes Kaiser Permanente’s Center for Heart and Vascular Care has achieved — and maintained — clinical excellence because, “We focus on giving the best care possible to our patients. We make every stitch a masterpiece. When patients trust us with their lives, we are obligated to do our very best.

“It’s a privilege and a blessing to come to work every day because I know that I have a 100% chance of helping somebody,” he said.

Learn more about cardiac care at Kaiser Permanente at

Accolades and awards

Kaiser Permanente’s accolades underscore the highest category of quality, and place Kaiser Permanente Sunnyside Medical Center in Clackamas, Oregon, among the elite for these surgeries in the United States and Canada.

  • Three stars (the highest rating) from the Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS) for patient care and outcomes in coronary artery bypass grafting (for 9 straight years), aortic valve replacement, and mitral valve repair/replacement.
  • A 3-star rating from the Society of Thoracic Surgeons for patient care and lung cancer resection outcomes.
  • In 2018, Consumer Reports named Kaiser Permanente Sunnyside Medical Center one of just 18 hospitals in the country to earn top scores in coronary artery bypass grafting and in aortic valve replacement.