American Heart Association Recognizes UConn John Dempsey Hospital with Gold-Level Honors

The American Heart Association (AHA) has once again recognized UConn John Dempsey Hospital for its excellence in heart attack and stroke care with gold-level honors. 

Entrance to the emergency department at UConn Health in Farmington, Connecticut. November 13, 2019 (Tina Encarnacion/UConn Health photo)

The American Heart Association (AHA) has once again recognized UConn John Dempsey Hospital for its excellence in heart attack and stroke care with gold-level honors.

This year marks the seventh straight year that the hospital has received the highest gold honors for heart attack care and the fifth year in a row for stroke care.

UConn Health has been awarded the 2021 AHA Mission: Lifeline® Gold-Plus Receiving Quality Achievement Award for ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) heart attack care and the 2021 AHA’s Get With The Guidelines®-Stroke Gold Plus & Target: Stroke Elite Honor Roll Award.

With these awards, the American Heart Association recognizes UConn Health for implementing quality improvement measures that ensure cardiovascular patients receive efficient and coordinated care, ultimately leading to more lives saved, shorter recovery times, and fewer returns to the hospital.

“Our stroke program has grown over the years under Dr. Sanjay Mittal, Dr. Ketan Bulsara, and the whole team. It’s an amazing program,” said Dr. Andy Agwunobi, Interim President of the University of Connecticut and CEO of UConn Health. “Stroke is one of the leading causes of death in the country and UConn Health is at the forefront of addressing that. I want to thank everyone that has been involved in getting the Stroke Gold Plus and Stroke Elite Honor Roll Award from the American Heart Association.”

Agwunobi added: “Also, I want to thank the STEMI heart attack team. This is really about saving people’s lives and once again you’ve proven that our hospital is one of the best in the nation for this type of care.”

Heart Attack Care Excellence

UConn Health is being recognized once again for its excellent area of STEMI. Each year, more than 250,000 people experience an ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI), the deadliest type of heart attack, caused by a blockage of blood flow to the heart that requires timely treatment. To prevent death, it is critical to restore blood flow as quickly as possible, either by mechanically opening the blocked vessel or by providing clot-busting medication.

“Congratulations to everyone involved in fast, high quality, and lifesaving STEMI heart attack patient care at UConn Health, and their continued commitment to excellence,” shared Dr. Bruce T. Liang, director of the Pat and Jim Calhoun Cardiology Center at UConn Health.

UConn John Dempsey Hospital’s multifaceted team including paramedics, Emergency Department personnel, Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory staff, and interventional cardiac specialists who are on standby 24/7 to offer patients lifesaving heart attack care and treatments at a moment’s notice inside the cardiac catheterization lab at UConn Health’s Pat and Jim Calhoun Cardiology Center.

“The only hospital in the state to receive seven consecutive years of AHA Gold Level honors for emergency heart attack care is an impressive track record that speaks to the dedication and excellence of the EMS, Emergency Medicine, and interventional cardiology teams devoted to making this a success,” said Dr. Scott Allen, Chief Medical Officer at UConn John Dempsey Hospital.

If ambulance paramedics suspect a patient is having a STEMI heart attack based on an electrocardiogram test (EKG), a STEMI Alert is radioed immediately to UConn John Dempsey Hospital from the patient’s home or location to activate the Emergency Department and the Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory to be prepared to treat the heart attack patient. Even if it is in the middle of the night, on-call staff will be at the ready to care for the patient.

“Thanks to our paramedics, we have been able to extend our hospital care into a patient’s home where treatment begins and our cardiac specialists are mobilized even before the patient is loaded into the ambulance,” said Peter Canning, the EMS/STEMI coordinator at UConn Health. “It is a seamless team effort that results in saving heart muscle and improving the resulting quality of life for many in our community.”

Once a STEMI patient arrives at UConn John Dempsey Hospital’s ED they are swiftly taken to the Cardiac Cath Lab for a lifesaving minimally invasive procedure known as a percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) to open any narrowed or blocked coronary arteries. UConn Health’s interventional cardiology team is well-known for their pioneering use of minimally invasive cardiac interventions through a patient’s wrist artery rather than via traditional groin artery access.

Dr. Michael Azrin, director of cardiac catheterization, UConn Health adds, “Managing patients with heart attacks requires a dedicated, coordinated and responsive team. That is what we have at UConn- a team that includes committed Physicians, Nurses, EMTs, Staff, Telephone operators, Emergency room staff, and administrators.  In order to be rapid, high quality, and consistent it has required the continued commitment of this entire multidisciplinary team.”

UConn Health is an accredited AHA Mission: Lifeline Heart Attack Receiving Center. The American Heart Association’s Mission: Lifeline program’s goal is to reduce system barriers to prompt treatment for heart attacks and strokes. The initiative provides tools, training, and other resources to support patient care following protocols from the most recent evidence-based treatment guidelines.

Stroke Team Receives Top Honor Again

Stroke is the No. 5 cause of death and a leading cause of adult disability in the U.S. On average, someone in the U.S. suffers a stroke every 40 seconds, and nearly 795,000 people suffer a new or recurrent stroke each year. Early stroke detection and treatment are key to improving survival, minimizing disability, and speeding recovery times

UConn Health’s American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s Get With The Guidelines®– Stroke Gold Plus Quality Achievement Award recognizes the hospital’s commitment to ensuring stroke patients receive the most appropriate treatment according to nationally recognized, research-based guidelines based on the latest scientific evidence.

“We are so proud of this accomplishment,” said Dr. Sanjay Mittal, medical director of the UConn Health Stroke Center. “Time is of the essence when it comes to strokes, and improving patient outcomes by providing clot-busting treatment in a timely manner is our goal in every instance. To be recognized for the hard work our team provides day after day, we are truly humbled and thankful for the acknowledgment.”

UConn Health has earned a gold-level award four years in a row by meeting specific quality achievement measures for the diagnosis and treatment of stroke patients at a set level for a designated period. These measures include evaluation of the proper use of medications and other stroke treatments aligned with the most up-to-date, evidence-based guidelines with the goal of speeding recovery and reducing death and disability for stroke patients. Before discharge, patients should also receive education on managing their health, get a follow-up visit scheduled, as well as other care transition interventions

“UConn Health is dedicated to improving the quality of care for our stroke patients by implementing the American Heart Association’s Get With The Guidelines-Stroke initiative,” said Jennifer Sposito, RN, MSN, stroke coordinator at the UConn Health Stroke Center. “We are proud of our multidisciplinary team coming together during the challenges of the past year and continuing to grow stronger together as they provide our patients with the best quality of care.”

Key members of the multidisciplinary stroke team span across the fields of emergency medicine, neurology, neurosurgery, imaging, and pharmacy.

Get With The Guidelines® is the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s hospital-based quality improvement program that provides hospitals with tools and resources to increase adherence to the latest research-based guidelines. Developed with the goal of saving lives and hastening recovery, Get With The Guidelines has touched the lives of more than 9 million patients since 2001. For more information, visit