Page 42 - RU RWJ Medicine Magazine • Winter 2021
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reminded him not to lose sight of his dream.
He remembers his friend calling him to say, “Complete your work so that you are complete. Do it for your family. Do it for your brother.”
So he did.
“My friends, great teachers, and mentors at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, restored my faith in medicine.”
Continuing the Commitment to Serve the Underserved
During Dr. Fakorede’s third-year clinical rotation in Camden, he participated in a student-led clinic that paired medical students
with patients from low-income areas. These patients were supported from doctor’s visits to surgery, when necessary, at no cost to the patient. This work, along with his undergradu- ate experience with ODASIS, were defining moments that inspired him to focus on treating those in underserved communities that lacked access to quality care.
The Camden rotation also introduced Dr. Fakorede to interventional cardiology, where he was blown away to learn how minimally invasive procedures could produce such excellent and im- mediate results. He considered that this was the area where he could make the greatest impact.
“Following my residency at New York- Presbyterian-Weill Cornell Medical Center, I re- turned to Cooper University Hospital for my general cardiology and interventional cardiology fellowships. I was working with world-renown research teams that were mentoring me while producing publications. That was so important to me, and we still have close connections today,” said Dr. Fakorede.
One of those connections was made when he met a Black interventional cardiologist who later recruited him to work in Tennessee.
Dr. Fakorede shared, “He took me under his wing, and it made such an impact, because even today African American interventional cardiolo- gists make up less than 1 percent of the medical population. When you look at the burden of car- diovascular disease, we as Black people make up a majority of those cases, yet we are still drastically underrepresented in the field.”
Dr. Fakorede accepted the offer and became the third member of an African American interventional cardiology practice in Jackson, Tenn. It was there that he uncovered a health care issue that required immediate attention in nearby Mississippi, where a disproportionate number of Black people with diabetes had limbs being amputated at an alarming rate.
“When 40 percent of the population is Black, when there are not enough physicians to care for patients, and there is a health care system that is flawed, it is no surprise that these numbers were staggering,” emphasized Dr. Fakorede.
He continues, “I am trained to save limbs, and in 90 percent of cases, amputations can be reduced through early screening, timely limb preserving interventions, and aggressive follow-up.”
His vision became crystal clear, and in 2015, Cardiovascular Solutions of Central Mississippi opened its doors with a mission to educate and provide access to quality health care for Mis- sissippians living in rural areas. Dr. Fakorede and his team specialize in preventative cardio- vascular management, women’s heart health, and catheter-based procedures focused in the treatment of coronary atherosclerosis disease and peripheral atherosclerosis (PAD).
“As a CEO of the first cardiovascular physician- led, comprehensive, outpatient-based clinic and procedural center in the state of Mississippi, I wanted to make the invisible visible, to be a common man working on behalf of a forgotten region when it comes to cardiovascular health
equality, and reduce the rates of unnecessary amputations in the epicenter of cardiovascular disease. Mississippi Delta ranks No. 1 in the country,” he said.
Dr. Fakorede has seen more than 10,000 cardio- vascular patients in Bolivar County and per- forms nearly 500 angiograms annually. These preventative initiatives, aggressive screening adaptations, and quality intervention strategies have led Dr. Fakorede to decrease amputation rates by 88 percent over a three-year period in the Mississippi Delta.
Although Dr. Fakorede continues to work tire- lessly in his own practice, it has not kept him from being a catalyst for national health care changes.
As co-chair of the Association of Black Cardiol- ogists PAD Initiative, Dr. Fakorede has been at the forefront working with Congress to establish the first bipartisan PAD caucus that would support legislation to stop the detrimental prac- tices of preventable amputations and to educate communities about legislative activities aimed to improve PAD research, education, and treatment.
According to the American College of Cardiology, 50 percent of patients with vascular disease are asymptomatic. Dr. Fakorede wants free screen- ing based on risk factors that include minori- ties, older adults with diabetes, and smokers.
Additionally, he continues to push for policy supporting what he calls his “Dream Team” of specialists: cardiologists, podiatrists, vascular surgeons, and endocrinologists to be rewarded with federal loan forgiveness for choosing to establish private practices in low-income com- munities which need them the most.
“I recognized that where there is despair, there is opportunity,” Dr. Fakorede said. “The road wasn’t easy but that’s the reward with wisdom earned!” M
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