Published in Health Care
ACV Centers CEO Dr. Jihad Mustapha, left, co-founded the practice with Dr. Fadi Saab, right. Dr. Abraham Mata, center, moved from Texas to join the practice. ACV Centers CEO Dr. Jihad Mustapha, left, co-founded the practice with Dr. Fadi Saab, right. Dr. Abraham Mata, center, moved from Texas to join the practice. COURTESY PHOTO

Specialty medical practice pursues selective growth strategy

BY Sunday, March 01, 2020 05:50pm

GRAND RAPIDS — Two years after forming a specialty medical practice to prevent leg amputations via a procedure he developed, Dr. Jihad Mustapha is ready to begin growing the care model well beyond West Michigan.

Advanced Cardiac & Vascular Centers for Amputation Prevention PLC plans to open a location this June in Las Vegas, Nev. Mustapha wants to partner with more physicians throughout the country for further expansion of the niche treatment that can prevent amputations and the physical debilitation of patients, plus the emotional trauma for them and their families.

“It’s a great model and it’s a great center for care,” said Mustapha, co-founder and CEO of ACV Centers in Grand Rapids. “The patient need is what is driving us right now. The growth in the requirement for care for patients is driving us to accept growth outside of the first center that we opened.”

An interventional cardiologist, Dr. Mustapha years ago developed a treatment for critical limb ischemia in which blood flow to the extremities is severely restricted, often leading to amputation.

Since opening on East Beltline Avenue in January 2018 and adding a second location in November 2018 in Lansing, ACV Centers has treated some 1,500 patients, preventing hundreds of amputations and continuing to manage patients for a condition that lacks a cure.

With high interest from colleagues across the nation as awareness grows, ACV Centers now looks to branch out. ACV Centers is involved in “multiple discussions” about potential new locations with physicians, some of whom “are just waiting patiently, some who would have liked to have gone in yesterday, if they could,” Mustapha said.

“The number of physicians that call us to try to create a similar center to this, either in Michigan or outside of Michigan, is high,” Mustapha said. “When we think the time is right, we’ll bring them on board here, train them, and then open a center for them.”

ACV Centers intends to move methodically to expand. New locations depend on connecting and partnering with physicians who are willing to go through the rigorous, six-month training in Grand Rapids. The training focuses on the procedure and techniques ACV Centers uses to restore blood circulation in the legs of patients who typically are “very sick” and already scheduled for amputation, Mustapha said.

Critical limb ischemia is the advanced stage of peripheral artery disease, or PAD, the narrowing or blockage of blood flow to the legs. The disease affects about 8.5 million people in the U.S. who are over 40 years old, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The condition is caused by the buildup of plaque in arteries.

Selective growth

Mustapha does not have a specific number of locations in mind that ACV Centers could have in the years ahead. The goal instead is to ensure ACV Centers partners with physicians who can provide comprehensive care and maintain high-quality clinical outcomes for patients.

Prospective partners “have to prove to us first that they are worthy” and can follow ACV Centers’ clinical protocols, policies and procedures.

“We are being selective. If a patient enters an ACV Center (elsewhere) one day, I know that this patient will receive the best care that’s in the country because the physician will be trained with us and we know them and we know what they’re going to do,” he said. “Because it’s unique and special, the vision is to take our time in finding the right team and then grow into that team, and not open a center and then go out and try to find a team to put in it.

“We cannot lose track of the primary reasons we are opening these centers. If we can keep doing this, focusing on the patients first and the business second, we’ll always be successful.”

Mustapha started his career doing both cardiac and vascular work, having been trained in both areas. He first performed his procedure more than 12 years ago on a woman with severe PAD, preventing an amputation.

After years of practice, he had found he was treating more patients with vascular disease than cardiac disease. His interest continued to grow in treating sicker patients with advanced vascular disease, particularly after learning that the condition has a higher mortality rate than heart attacks and many cancers, yet has few treatment options, he said.

“I decided to dedicate the rest of my career to it. Actually, it was a straight-forward decision. It doesn’t take much thinking to dedicate your life to making a difference in these patients’ lives,” said Mustapha, who believes critical limb ischemia, or CLI, is undertreated.

“This disease, the need for (treatment) exceeds any other disease,” he said. “It’s one of the deadliest diseases, yet so quiet.”

Additional expansion

Prior to co-forming ACV Centers with his nephew, Dr. Fadi Saab, Mustapha worked from 2009 to January 2018 at Metro Health, where he helped to establish the vascular and cardiovascular programs. He previously was with West Michigan Heart prior to its acquisition by Spectrum Health.

ACV Centers today has a clinical and administrative staff of 75 people at the Grand Rapids and Lansing locations who specialize in treating peripheral artery disease and the complications of critical limb ischemia.

Most recently, ACV Centers expanded its capabilities via the January merger with Grand Rapids Cardiology, a move that “takes us to a new level of patient care,” Mustapha said.

“We wanted to provide complete, comprehensive cardiovascular care,” he said.

Led by cardiologist Dr. Ronald VanderLaan, Grand Rapids Cardiology and its staff now practice under the ACV Centers branding. The cardiology practice continues to operate out of its office on East Beltline Avenue as ACV Grand Rapids Cardiology.

“Our two practices share the same values when it comes to a compassionate, highly detailed approach to patient care, so the partnership seemed very natural,” VanderLaan said at the time of the merger. “By joining forces, we hope to draw on our collective expertise to build a cardiac and vascular center for excellence. Both of our practices are in a strong position to serve patients, and this partnership will only allow us to grow our services while focusing on the patient-centric care all our patients expect and value from us.”

More docs needed

The opportunity for ACV Centers to open a practice in Las Vegas came when Mustapha met a colleague in Chicago at an annual symposium on CLI that he started a decade ago. The physician from Las Vegas, Dr. Rick Bernstein, had attended each year of the symposium and a few years ago approached Mustapha to ask if he could somehow work with ACV Centers.

“When the opportunity came up, we finally told him ‘yes, but in order for you to work under our name, under the ACV standard of care, you have to come train with us,’” Mustapha said.

A cardio-thoracic and vascular surgeon, Bernstein accepted and joined the staff of ACV Centers in November.

ACV Centers has been asked by hospitals to establish similar programs at their facilities, Mustapha said. Similar to the potential in opening new center locations, the most difficult part remains “finding the right mix of physicians or specialties together” to treat CLI, Mustapha said.

ACV Centers also has been training interventional cardiology fellows at Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine and is discussing extending it to medical residents. Mustapha hopes to see more physicians trained in treating CLI.

“We can’t find enough doctors in the country,” Mustapha said. “We’re hoping over time that we see more and more physicians have an interest in this specialty and actually go beyond it and just have the passion that we have, and combine their skills and passion and, hopefully, be part of what we’re doing.”

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