St. Elizabeth Heart & Vascular Institute Awarded American Heart Association Cardiovascular Center of Excellence Accreditation

Photo by Catie Viox


In the four years since St. Elizabeth Healthcare established its Heart & Vascular Institute, hospital officials knew they were well on their way to fostering a high-quality cardiac care system.

“The Heart & Vascular Institute came out of the idea that we needed a standardization of care within our organization,” says Victor Schmelzer, M.D., Medical Director, St. Elizabeth Heart & Vascular Institute. “That involved establishing guidelines, algorithms and procedures in multidisciplinary areas where we could agree on how we do things as caregivers.”

After instituting a more global system, engaging all the areas of heart care talent and skills, St. Elizabeth’s leaders began wondering: Are we as good as we think we are? After all, every hospital system touts its quality of care.

“We said, ‘Let’s bring in the American Heart Association (AHA) and let them look at our data and see if we qualify as a Center of Excellence,” says D.P. Suresh, M.D., Medical Director, St. Elizabeth Heart & Vascular. “They looked at our entire system, all the data, on-site visits. They said, ‘Yes, you qualify.’”

Last August, St. Elizabeth Edgewood was awarded the American Heart Association’s Cardiovascular Center of Excellence accreditation, a comprehensive level of designation for heart care. It recognizes hospitals committed to following proven treatment guidelines, woven into a holistic system of care that fully addresses the needs of patients with complex cardiac problems.

St. Elizabeth is the first hospital in Greater Cincinnati and just the seventh in the U.S. to achieve this accreditation.

“It’s a recognition of the work that has been done here over the past four years,” says Schmelzer. “It reflects a commitment on the part of the hospital administration to move forward and not be stagnant. It demonstrates to our community that we are indeed high-quality providers. And it underpins the goal that we set out to achieve when we opened the Heart & Vascular Institute of reducing heart-related deaths in Northern Kentucky by 25 percent by the year 2025 – a goal that we are on track to meet.”

Suresh says the accreditation sends a clear message to patients about the entire heart care system at St. Elizabeth, not just one or two specialties.

“You get a Center of Excellence not just for care at the hospital, but for the entire process, from the EMS to post discharge follow up,” he says. “The AHA is saying the whole system – nurses, technologists, pharmacy, everyone in the process – is geared to the highest standard of care for a patient.”

Schmelzer says the effort that led to the accreditation is ongoing at the Heart & Vascular Institute. “We look at how we can get groups of people to work together that incorporates not only physicians, but nursing and other services. It includes reaching out to EMS care units in our area, which is no small task. We look at the system to reduce waiting times in emergency, how to proceed from one step to another that isn’t simply provider-preferences related. We have a lot of data that shows the more you decrease the variance in how you treat a patient, the better the outcome.”

Suresh says the AHA designation builds momentum for St. Elizabeth’s cardiac care system.

“Now that we know we meet these guidelines, we are asking, ‘How can we do even better?’ And it absolutely helps with attracting talent since the AHA is such a reputable organization.”


St. Elizabeth Heart & Vascular Institute is located at 1 Medical Village Dr., Edgewood, KY 41017. For more information, call 859.301.WELL (9355) or visit