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Team Cardiology keeps things pumping at VA Loma Linda

Eighty-six thousand four hundred — the average number of heart beats in a twenty-four hour period. Two million, eight hundred fifty thousand — the average number of heart beats our cardiology team is responsible for in that same twenty-four hour period.

VA Loma Linda Healthcare System’s cardiology team makes remarkable efforts to provide Veterans world-class specialty care. From life-saving interventional procedures to diagnostic, therapeutic, and preventive care crossing the spectrum of cardiovascular diseases, the team’s many pursuits and various activities all spring from one vision. Veterans are at the heart of everything we do. 

“We are passionate about the health of Veterans,” said Dr. Helme Silvet, chief of cardiology. “We all have a common goal. Serving Veterans is the reason we’re here.”

A hardworking, multidisciplinary team

Serving Veterans with excellent cardiac care takes a dedicated team of over 50 staff and 20 fellows, each contributing subspecialty knowledge and professional expertise. Efforts are bolstered by medical students and trainees, along with clinical pharmacists, social workers, case managers, RNs, LVNs, health technicians, and support assistants. The hardworking multidisciplinary team performs a variety of inpatient and outpatient procedures, completing more than 12,000 clinic visits a year.


“We’re a hardworking team, and we work together seamlessly to provide patient care,” said Dr. Tiffany Priester, stress lab director. “We all have the same mindset — do what’s right for the patient. We take time to say, ‘What can we do that’s Veteran-centric?’ I appreciate that our whole department lives that motto.” 

Cardiology embodies the Veteran-centric motto by communicating frequently, applying their diversity of expertise, and sharing information to al-ways do what’s right for the patient.

“We have absolutely fantastic working relation-ships that enhance our programs,” said Dr. Huma Samar, director of advanced cardiac imaging. “We are always talking to each other. We share mutual patients, and we have different kinds of expertise, so we share information to enhance the care of the patients.”

Continuity of care

The flow of information within VA allows for continuity of care, a major benefit for Veterans. Veterans build their medical history at VA, allowing providers to focus on customized care for each patient. Beyond collegiate collaboration, VA Loma Linda is home to some of the best doctors in their fields, renowned for their contributions to cardiology medicine. 

“For patients, there is a lot of value in coming to VA Loma Linda,” said Dr. Ahmed Athar, director of the cardiac catheterization laboratory. “They’re getting providers and physicians who are well-educated in terms of developments within cardiology, and also we are able to excel in terms of ethical decision making and ethical practice. We want to do what’s in the best interest of the Veteran each and every day.” 

Veterans serving Veterans

Many VA Loma Linda staff personally understand what’s in the best interest of the Veteran, because they are Veterans too. 

“It’s a really good feeling because we continue to serve our brothers and sisters,” said David Paladini, stress test lab medical technician and 22-year Army Veteran. “Working at VA is an extension of my military mission to interact, to help, to talk with them about what’s happening, to be right by their side.” 

As a Veteran, cardiology LVN Jessica Garnica is right by the side of her fellow Veterans providing care with empathy. “I understand what you’re going through, and I’m here to inform as much as I can,” said Garnica. “You are your best advocate. If you have questions, please ask. I’m here to help you get the right answers.”

Doing what’s best for the Veteran is always the right answer. At VA Loma Linda, we know how to care for Veterans because it’s our sole mission. And we’re proud to do it.  

“We feel privileged and honored to take care of our patients,” said Dr. Priester. “We’re here to serve.” The team is passionate about serving Veterans and providing outstanding cardiac care. For some, the mission is deeply personal.  

“I chose cardiology because my father was a re-tired Air Force Veteran and he developed cardio-myopathy,” said Diane Graham-Kotlarczyk, cardiol-ogy technical supervisor and 17-year VA employee. “Early on I felt a calling to cardiology, and I enjoy working at VA because I love being able to help Veterans. We provide the care that Veterans have earned and deserve.”

VA is here for you

Veterans deserve the best in comprehensive healthcare services, and cardiology delivers on the promise to care for those who have served in our nation’s military.

Dr. Jay Patel, director of heart failure services, re-minds Veterans that we’re here for you, and you are welcome at VA Loma Linda.

“VA will always be here for you. The office visits, the medications, the diagnostic testing, these are all benefits Veterans are entitled to,” said Patel. “Wholeheartedly with-out a doubt, VA will always be here for Veterans.”