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Charitable Partnership Resolves Critical Health Issues for Ethiopian Patient


When an Ethiopian needed advanced cardiac surgery, Gwinnett Medical Center (GMC)-affiliated cardiologist Michael Lipsitt, M.D., GMC and Jewish Healthcare International stepped up to help. Recently, David A. Langford, M.D., one of the lead surgeons at GMC’s Strickland Heart Center, successfully performed the complex triple valve replacement. This charitable work was made possible by contributions from individuals, from the hospital, and from Jewish Healthcare International.

The patient, 29-year old Eyasu Minas Woldekirkos, required valve replacement surgery resulting from severe rheumatic fever experienced as a child.

According to Dr. Langford, a board certified cardiothoracic surgeon, postoperative recovery was uneventful and the patient was discharged six days following the procedure. Dr. Langford is employed by St. Joseph’s Medical Group and works exclusively at the Strickland Heart Center.

“Our vision is to enhance the health of our patients and other customers, as well as to partner with our physicians and health organizations to treat disease and create a healthier community,” said Phil Wolfe, GMC’s president and CEO. “While our involvement and support was simply our vision put into motion by many, we were humbled to play a role in the patient’s journey to health.”

Dr. Lipsitt first met Woldekirkos during a medical mission trip in April where he worked on behalf of Jewish Healthcare International. At a routine examination, Dr. Lipsitt noticed distinct signs of declining health in the patient.

“Upon examination and reviewing the results of his recent echocardiogram, I knew the patient’s valves were incredibly dysfunctional; I had no idea how he was alive,” said Dr. Lipsitt. “I never dreamed it would be possible to get Eyasu to Atlanta for this operation. However, with the cooperation of Gwinnett Medical Center, Dr. Langford, Jewish Healthcare International and Representative Tom Price, an impossible feat was accomplished.”

“Our goal is to save and improve lives,” said CEO Gene Rubel of Jewish Healthcare International,a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing education and access to healthcare. “It was a distinct honor to lend our knowledge, leverage relationships and help orchestrate this effort that led to such a highly successful outcome for a man who was once critically ill.”

It is believed that Woldekirkossuffered from a common type of valve disease, rheumatic heart disease, which can cause a number of issues including causing the heart valve leaflets to become inflamed, stick together and become scarred, rigid, thickened and shortened. In addition the valves may become leaky.  Rheumatic fever is usually caused by an untreated streptococcal infection, such as strep throat. The use of penicillin to treat strep throat can prevent this disease.

The Strickland Heart Center is a 40,000 square-foot facility that houses advanced technology, including state-of-the-art cardiac catheterization labs and operating rooms, providing residents of metro Atlanta access to leading cardiac care professionals.


About Jewish Healthcare International

JHI is a 501(c)(3), not-for-profit, non-sectarian organization dedicated to enhancing the quality of, and access to, healthcare services available to communities in need throughout the world. Through the utilization of teams of U.S. and international volunteers and staff, JHI is able to provide ongoing healthcare education, training and services to those in need, thereby enhancing the medical infrastructure of the communities served. To learn more about JHI’s programs in Ethiopia and worldwide, visit,, or

About Gwinnett Medical Center

Recognized by HealthGrades™ as America’s 100 Best Hospitals, Gwinnett Medical Center is a not-for-profit healthcare network with acute-care hospitals in Lawrenceville and Duluth.  Offering cardiovascular, orthopedic and neuroscience specialty care as well as a full continuum of wellness services, GMC’s 4,200 associates and 800 affiliated physicians serve more than 400,000 patients annually. To learn more about how GMC is transforming healthcare, visit or follow us at, or