15TH ST A heart attack can last just minutes, but damage to the organ is permanent. The good news is people in Santa Monica can do something about it.

The California Heart Center Organization recently opened a new facility to help prevent such attacks and monitor the heart health of people in the community.

“First and foremost we hope [the new center] will help more patients access the physicians we have available, and that they will be vigilant about their health and take advantage of the easily accessible center,” Christine Sumbi, vice president of the organization, said.

The center, located at 1304 15th St., was designed with two primary concerns in mind. Due to the large amount of people using the UCLA Medical Center in Westwood, cardiovascular patients were being transferred to the Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center, causing a break in their care. Now patients will be able to stay within the UCLA medical community and they will receive continuos care from the same community. The other reason was to encourage Santa Monicans to use it as a resource for preventative care.

Michele Hamilton, one of three doctors who practice at the new center, said most women think they will die of breast cancer, when in fact approximately 40 percent more will die from a heart attack or a stroke. Hamilton, a Harvard Medical School graduate, said there are a number of actions that both women and men can take to reduce their risk of a heart attack from exercising, to stopping smoking, to watching their salt intake.

Although the center is open to anyone who is concerned about their heart health, certain people may have a more urgent interest in being screened. People who have noticed a change in the way they feel or who have a history of high cholesterol and diabetes can take advantage of being evaluated at the center.

Those people who die from a heart attack usually pass away within the first hour and because of the fast moving nature of coronary problems staff members make themselves available. Patients can usually see someone within a day or so and even though the center is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. there is always a physician on call 24 hours a day.

That said, the center is not a substitute for the emergency room, staff caution. If a person suspects they are suffering a heart attack they should go to the ER.

The California Heart Center Organization is a publicly funded non-profit with a mission to integrate quality health care, clincial research, and continuing education to create an environment where advances are fostered for the benefit of patients. The organization, which was created by former heart patients, decided to act on a need they saw in the community that matched their mission statement. The center is like any other clinic accepting both insurance and cash payments.

However, in contrast to the typical white washed clinic, the heart center was designed with patients’ comfort in mind, Sumbi said. Mackler Echt & Associates designed the interior in a first time collaboration with the nonprofit.

Antimicrobial wood floors stretch across the space and raised ceilings help patients to avoid feeling claustrophobic. Concave fluorescent lights were used to mimic softer more natural light and a frosted glass wall with a heart insignia lets that light pass between the waiting room and the back room where patients are seen, but still maintain their privacy. Composite photographs of Malibu skies dotting the walls are meant to inspire calm as well.

“We’re very fortunate that we can provide for patients in a private and personal atmosphere,” Hamilton said.

Patients are not the only ones that will benefit from the center as staff give their stamp of approval to the new center and location. Hamilton is thrilled and nurse Anna Puhky said she can now walk to work.

“It’s such a nice area,” Puhky said.


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