Latest News

January 26, 2015

The latest issue of Health for Life from Adventist Health is now arriving in homes. This issue features an article on heart attacks and how women often experience different heart attack symptoms than men. Women are more likely to experience shortness of breath, nausea or jaw pain.

This issue also features articles and information on:

  • Stroke care
  • Stroke risk quiz
  • Confronting Cancer: Coping advice for families
  • Free community classes and events

Download Health for Life (PDF)

January 22, 2015

One of the things that is so enjoyable about being a cardiologist is that we have so many tools to help lower risk. 

With Heart Month coming up, Dr. Katherine Strelich and Northwest Regional Heart and Vascular are working hard to get the word out about heart health. 

Yesterday Dr. Strelich appeared on AM Northwest to discuss heart health and the Heart Age Assessment offered online from Northwest Regional Heart and Vascular. This assessment helps identify your personal risk factors and suggests things you can do to help improve your overall heart health. This assessment will also provide you with your heart age, which is a comparison with your actual age. 

Watch the video below to learn valuable tips on heart health and how heart attack signs in a woman may be different than for a man. And don't forget to take the Heart Age Assessment.

January 8, 2015

Anabel Facemire, MD joins the cardiology team at Walla Walla General Hospital

Walla Walla General Hospital is delighted to welcome Anabel Facemire, MD, FACC, to our expert cardiology team. Dr. Facemire’s clinical interests are in preventative cardiology and women’s heart health. She is board certified in both cardiology and nuclear cardiology, and is fluent in Spanish.

Dr. Facemire aims to be an active partner in her patients’ journey to better health. “Through early detection, treatment and rehabilitation, I want to empower my patients to achieve abundant and long lasting health,” says Dr. Facemire. “I treat my patients using the latest evidence-based medicine and teach them the benefits of nutrition, exercise, stress management and spiritual support. By working side-by-side with my patients to prevent and treat heart disease — the #1 killer in this country — I believe we can continue to strive for a healthier community.”

She was born in Quito, Ecuador and lived in Argentina through her early years. Dr. Facemire decided to become a doctor when she was in second grade. The loving care of her pediatrician through a difficult illness inspired her to dream about becoming a compassionate physician.

Through early detection, treatment and rehabilitation, I want to empower my patients to achieve abundant and long lasting health.

Dr. Facemire received her medical degree from the University of Guayaquil in Ecuador. She then completed an Internal Medicine Residency at Graduate/Hahnemann University Hospital in Philadelphia, before completing fellowship training in Cardiovascular Disease from Mount Sinai Medical Center’s Cardiology Division in New York City.

Prior to coming to Walla Walla, Dr. Facemire has served as a general cardiologist and a director of cardiac rehabilitation. Most recently, she was a General Cardiologist with expertise in echocardiography, nuclear medicine, preventative cardiology, and women’s health at Upper Chesapeake Cardiology at the University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health in Bel Air, Md.

Anabel and her husband Fred have two children: Melody, a 9 year-old daughter; and Ethan, a 6 year-old son. She has participated in sprint triathlons for the last five years and enjoys music, the outdoors and healthy dining.

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Facemire, call 509-527-8154.

December 26, 2014

It takes a team to ensure that our patients have the best care possible. Each day our team, including surgeons, PAs, nurses and physical therapists, work together to make sure that we're offering coordinated care to patients. This partnership helps us offer quality that helps get our patients back to their lives as quickly as possible.

To learn more about the coordinated care that you can expect to receive at Northwest Regional Heart and Vascular, read Collaborative Health Care as Part of the Healing Process.

December 15, 2014

Walla Walla General Hospital has received the Mission: Lifeline® Bronze Referring Quality Achievement Award for implementing specific quality improvement measures outlined by the American Heart Association for the treatment of patients who suffer severe heart attacks.

“We are proud to be recognized for our dedication and achievements in providing team-centered cardiac care to our community,” said Monty Knittel, WWGH President and CEO. “Receiving the American Heart Association’s Mission: Lifeline award demonstrates our continued commitment of consistently providing high-quality care for our patients.”

Each year in the United States, approximately 250,000 people suffer a STEMI, or ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction, caused by a complete blockage of blood flow to the heart that requires timely treatment. To prevent death, it’s critical to immediately restore blood flow, either by surgically opening the blocked vessel or by giving clot-busting medication.

The Mission: Lifeline program encourages the improvement of response times for those who suffer from a STEMI receive prompt, appropriate treatment. The program’s goal is to streamline systems of care to quickly get heart attack patients from the first 9-1-1 call to hospital treatment.

WWGH earned the award by meeting specific criteria and standards of performance for promptly diagnosing STEMI patients and transferring them to hospitals that provide artery-opening procedures as needed. Eligible hospitals must adhere to these measures at a set level for a designated period of time to receive the awards.


About Mission: Lifeline

The American Heart Association’s Mission: Lifeline program helps hospitals and emergency medical services develop systems of care that follow proven standards and procedures for STEMI patients. The program works by mobilizing teams across the continuum of care to implement American Heart Association/American College of Cardiology clinical treatment guidelines.  For more information, visit and

October 20, 2014

NCDR ACTION Registry–GWTG Platinum award recognizes high standards

Portland, OR, October 20, 2014Northwest Regional Heart and Vascular has received the American College of Cardiology’s NCDR ACTION Registry–GWTG Platinum Performance Achievement Award for 2014. Northwest Regional Heart and Vascular is one of only 256 hospitals nationwide to receive the honor.

The award recognizes Northwest Regional Heart and Vascular’s commitment and success in implementing a higher standard of care for heart attack patients and signifies that Northwest Regional Heart and Vascular has reached an aggressive goal of treating these patients to standard levels of care as outlined by the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association clinical guidelines and recommendations.

American College of Cardiology recognitionTo receive the ACTION Registry–GWTG Platinum Performance Achievement Award, Northwest Regional Heart and Vascular consistently followed the treatment guidelines in the ACTION Registry–GWTG Premier for eight consecutive quarters and met a performance standard of 90 percent for specific performance measures. Full participation in the registry engages hospitals in a robust quality improvement process using data to drive improvements in adherence to guideline recommendations and overall quality of care provided to heart attack patients.

“The American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association commend Northwest Regional Heart and Vascular for its success in implementing standards of care and protocols. The full implementation of acute and secondary prevention guideline-recommended therapy is a critical step in saving the lives and improving outcomes of heart attack patients,” said James Jollis, MD, FACC, ACTION Registry-GWTG Chair and Professor of Medicine and Radiology at Duke University Hospital. 

The Center for Disease Control estimates that over 700,000 Americans suffer a heart attack each year. A heart attack occurs when a blood clot in a coronary artery partially or completely blocks blood flow to the heart muscle. Treatment guidelines include administering aspirin upon arrival and discharge, timely restoration of blood flow to the blocked artery, smoking cessation counseling and cardiac rehabilitation, among others.

“This award is a proud achievement for Northwest Regional Heart and Vascular. It reflects the hard work and dedication of the staff who care for some of our most seriously ill patients and their families,” said James Pelch, executive director of cardiovascular services. “The implementation of these guidelines requires successful coordination of the cardiovascular team and emergency personnel and is a critical step in saving the lives and improving outcomes of heart attack patients.”

ACTION Registry–GWTG is a partnership between the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association with partnering support from the American College of Emergency Physicians and the Society of Cardiovascular Patient Care. ACTION Registry-GWTG empowers health care provider teams to consistently treat heart attack patients according to the most current, science-based guidelines and establishes a national standard for understanding and improving the quality, safety and outcomes of care provided for patients with coronary artery disease, specifically high-risk heart attack patients.

The American College of Cardiology is a 47,000-member medical society that serves as the professional home for the entire cardiovascular care team. The mission of the College is to transform cardiovascular care and to improve heart health. The College operates national registries to measure and improve care. It also provides professional medical education, disseminates cardiovascular research and bestows credentials upon cardiovascular specialists who meet stringent qualifications. For more information, visit

More on quality at Northwest Regional Heart and Vascular.

October 13, 2014

Sam Mason didn’t think he was having a heart attack. The 64 year-old Manzanita resident thought that he was experiencing arrhythmia. “My heart was beating erratically,” he said: “pump, pump, pump, Ka-Chung. I could literally feel my rib cage move from left to right. I thought, this isn’t right.”

Sam Mason of Manzanita and Mark Hart, MDSam was home alone at the time, and it didn’t occur to him to call 911. “There was a heaviness in my chest,” he said, “but it didn’t hurt much.”  So Sam, a life-long athlete, decided to exercise. “I did some gentle rowing on my rowing machine,” he said. “After that my heart kind of settled down.”

The next morning, March 26, 2014 Sam went to the Manzanita Primary and Specialty Care Clinic at the urging of his boss. Sam is the corporate environmental manager at Tillamook County Creamery Association. “I called my boss and told him I was going to stop at the doctor’s office on my way to work. When I described my symptoms, he told me to go to the urgent care clinic in Manzanita; he figured that closer to home was better. He didn’t want me to drive to Tillamook until someone checked me out.”

That was excellent advice. Sam saw Rob Soans, Physician Assistant (PA) at the clinic in Manzanita. “Rob listened to me, and he said, ‘it sounds like there might be something going on with your heart.’ He gave me an EKG and a blood test.”

The blood test was to measure Sam’s troponin levels. Troponins are proteins which are released into the blood when the heart muscle has been damaged, such as in a heart attack. The more damage there is to the heart, the greater the amount of troponin there will be in the blood. Normal troponin levels are so low as to be undetectable. Sam’s troponin levels were high, indicating that he had experienced a heart attack the day before.

Team approach provides seamless care

While Sam Mason awaited his EKG and troponin blood test results at the clinic in Manzanita, Rob Soans called NW Regional Heart and Vascular cardiologist, Mark Hart, MD. Tillamook Regional Medical Center and its clinics on the coast operate in partnership with NW Regional Heart and Vascular to provide world class cardiac services to our patients in Tillamook and Lincoln Counties. Dr. Hart assessed the results of Sam’s EKG and his troponin levels by phone and told Rob to transport Sam by ambulance to Adventist Medical Center (AMC) in Portland.

“I thought they were going to take me to the hospital in Tillamook,” said Sam. “But Rob got Dr. Hart on the phone and he took a look at my results and decided to send me straight to Portland.”

Sam was transported by Tillamook Regional Medical Center Ambulance Service, which operates a station in Manzanita. Ninety-five minutes later Sam was being checked in to the cardiac catheterization laboratory (cath lab) at AMC-Portland where he had a coronary angioplasty; that’s where a catheter is threaded through the femoral artery and guided into the heart. A special dye is injected via the catheter which enables cardiologists to observe the heart and any blockages through x-ray imaging. The cardiology team discovered that Sam’s left anterior descending (LAD) artery in his heart was 99 percent occluded. This condition is known as a “widow maker.”

What is a Widow Maker?

The good news is that I didn’t wake up dead.

The LAD supplies blood to the entire front wall of the heart and much of the side wall. It is the main artery down the front of the heart. When it is totally blocked or has a critical blockage at the beginning of the vessel, it is known as the widow maker, (the medical term is proximal LAD lesion) because of the often fatal consequences if the whole front wall of the heart is denied blood and oxygen.

A coronary stent implant was placed in Sam’s occluded LAD artery following his angioplasty. A stent is a small, wire mesh tube about the size of a ballpoint pen spring. The stent is inserted to help keep the artery open to ensure blood flow in the heart.

Sam said, “I almost didn’t go to the doctor that morning because I felt better. I knew that something unusual had happened with my heart, but it didn’t really hurt.” Sam never dreamed that he’d experienced a widow maker heart attack or that he had a 99 percent blockage in his heart. Had he not gone to the clinic that morning and received expert care he very likely would have experienced a second major heart attack that could have lived up to its name: widow maker.

Sam’s cardiologist, Mark Hart, MD said “This is a great example of the team concept at work.” Dr. Hart is referring to the partnership between Tillamook Regional Medical Center and NW Regional Heart and Vascular and Adventist Medical Center-Portland. “I see patients in Manzanita,” said Dr. Hart, “and Rob Soans and I have prepared for this scenario: a patient comes in to the Manzanita clinic with heart symptoms. Rob gives them and EKG and tests their troponin levels. He calls me with the results and if necessary we transport the patient to AMC-Portland for treatment. We are working together to create an environment where patients get the same treatment wherever they are. Everything worked exactly the way that it should have here. It was seamless coordination.”

The Road to Recovery

Sam Mason and Cardiac Rehab exercise physiologist Sherrie EvensonSam has committed himself to following instructions. He is taking his medications, keeping his appointments, going to cardiac education classes and he has changed the way he eats. He’s trying to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables per day and he’s given up coffee and sugary drinks. He’s lost 10 pounds and he is participating in the cardiac rehabilitation program at AMC-Portland.

Sam drives from Tillamook to Portland weekly to work out under the watchful care of exercise physiologists. Sam and his fellow cardiac patients wear cardiac monitors as they exercise and the rehab staff guide them to exert themselves within safe bounds while monitoring the stress on their hearts. For Sam, a lifelong athlete who has always enjoyed a strenuous workout, the challenge is to slow down. He’s supposed to keep his heart rate under 115, and just work to the point of mild exertion. He feels like he’s barely moving. The staff call to him, “Dial it back, Sam.” He smiles and tries to negotiate an intermediate speed. They laugh.

For Sherrie Evenson, exercise physiologist, Sam is a model patient. “I’ve been so impressed with him,” she said. “I’m impressed that he comes all this way. It says a lot about his dedication to his health that he drives here from Tillamook. And it makes a huge difference that he is a lifetime exerciser. He has a good foundation for health. And he’s just so nice. He’s a pleasure to work with.”

“This has been good for me,” said Sam of cardiac rehab. “Based on my experience here I know how far I can push myself.” Sam recently had the opportunity to push himself when he went to Italy with his wife, Cindy, to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary. “We went on some hike and uphill climbs in Italy. I was able to pace myself based upon the knowledge that I’ve gained here in rehab.”

It was never far from Sam’s mind how close he came to not surviving to celebrate 40 years of marriage. The phrase “widow maker” is haunting. “It would have been so hard for my wife,” Sam said about the possibility that he might have died of a heart attack. “That’s why it’s so important to me that I received excellent, quality care.”

Learn more about heart care in the Tillamook Oregon area.

October 9, 2014

Once again this year Northwest Regional Heart and Vascular was pleased to support the Greater Portland Go Red for Women Luncheon from the American Heart Association

Heart disease is still the number one killer of women, causing 1 in 3 deaths each year. We're committed to prevention and awareness for women in our community and everywhere. 

The photos below are from our Adventist Health photo booth. All of our photos from the day were posted on the Adventist Health Facebook page so that attendees could download a copy (and of course share with friends). 

Northwest Regional Heart and Vascular photo booth

Northwest Regional Heart and Vascular photo booth

Northwest Regional Heart and Vascular photo booth

August 7, 2014

Paul Welch MD, Brett LaFleur MD and Chris Opdahl MD at the Huckleberry Health Fair.

Paul Welch MD, Brett LaFleur MD and Gregory Opdahl MD at the Huckleberry Health Fair in Tillamook, OR.

March 27, 2014

The online vascular disease assessment offered by Northwest Regional Heart and Vascular is proving to be a valuable tool for the Northwest. Since launching in January of 2014 hundreds of individuals have completed the brief assessment that helps identify their risk for vascular disease. The assessment is a free tool developed by the providers at Northwest Regional Heart and Vascular with the goal of improving vascular health in the communities we serve.

Vascular disease can lead to an increased risk of stroke and heart attack. Gone undetected it can also result in loss of mobility and even the loss of a limb. Nearly 12 million Americans are affected by this disease. The good news is that vascular disease can largely be predicted and prevented. 

We encourage you to take our vascular disease assessment and follow up with your doctor if the tool shows that you are at high-risk.

Watch Mike discuss the assessment and his results below and learn how the assessment could help you.