Archives for January 2020

Baptist Health Opens First Reflux Center in Jacksonville

One quarter of the U.S. population has symptoms related to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), including chest pain, trouble swallowing, sleeplessness, persistent heartburn and regurgitation. To help patients with this condition, Baptist Health is opening the first comprehensive GERD center in Jacksonville, called the Baptist Center for Bariatric and Reflux Surgery.

GERD occurs when stomach acid flows back into the esophagus (tube connecting the mouth and stomach). This backwash (acid reflux) can irritate the lining of the esophagus. People diagnosed with GERD experience acid reflux at least twice a week, or moderate to severe acid reflux that occurs at least once a week. Other GERD symptoms can include non-cardiac chest pain, chronic laryngitis, or pulmonary symptoms, such as asthma or recurrent aspiration pneumonia.

“For some patients, simple activities like lying down or having a cup of coffee can result in severe heartburn pain and acid reflux, and they may not know that there are new treatment options available,” said Craig Morgenthal, MD, who, along with Steven Hodgett, MD, is a surgeon at the new center. Both are fellowship-trained in reflux and bariatric surgery.

Many people manage the discomfort of GERD with acid-reducing medications, many of which are now available over-the-counter. However, chronic, long-term (for more than one year) use of medications called proton pump inhibitors (PPI) may be associated with potentially dangerous side effects, including increased risk of bone fractures and a potential link between PPI use and dementia.

“Patients taking PPI medications are typically advised to take the lowest dose that controls their symptoms, for the shortest period of time possible,” said Dr. Hodgett. “The problem is that many patients have no other way to manage their symptoms, so they stay on them for years. Anti-reflux surgery is a minimally invasive option that gives patients a way to come off these medications completely.”

Hope Tallon had severe heartburn and reflux for 25 years. “I had symptoms every single day. It caused burning pain and a horrible bitter taste. Playing with my dogs on the floor or doing a yoga plank would trigger it. Even taking a sip of water or coffee could cause the stomach acid to come up,” said Tallon.

Diet changes and medications didn’t help her symptoms, so her physician referred her to Dr. Morgenthal at the Baptist Bariatrics and Reflux Center. An endoscopy revealed that Tallon had erosions of her esophagus with early onset of Barrett’s Esophagus, which could eventually lead to cancer.

“Chronic acid reflux causes more than acute discomfort; it can cause long-term damage and, in rare situations, can even lead to esophageal cancer if left untreated,” said Dr. Morgenthal.

Tallon had a minimally invasive procedure called the LINX® Reflux Management System in July 2019 and has not had any GERD symptoms since.

The LINX® System is a small, flexible band of magnets enclosed in titanium beads, placed around the lower esophageal sphincter located just above the stomach. The beads temporarily separate to allow food and liquid to pass into the stomach, then close to help prevent reflux. LINX is implanted laparoscopically in a minimally invasive procedure that typically takes about one hour. Patients generally go home within one day.

“Hope was a perfect candidate for LINX. She’s young and healthy and had exhausted a number of solutions,” Dr. Morgenthal said.

Baptist Center for Bariatric and Reflux Surgery also offers fundoplication procedures, a minimally-invasive surgical technique that reinforces the lower esophageal sphincter by wrapping part of the stomach around the bottom of the esophagus. Fundoplication is often done laparoscopically, which only involves small incisions in the abdomen. Our surgeons are trained in both laparoscopic Nissen and Toupet fundoplication, as well as hiatal hernia and paraesophageal hernia repairs.

For some obese patients, the best long-term solution for GERD may be gastric bypass surgery, which also reverses other serious health issues related to obesity, such as type 2 diabetes or obstructive sleep apnea.

A physician referral is not required to go the Baptist Center for Bariatric and Reflux Surgery. The center works with primary care providers and gastroenterologists, as well as other specialists, to assist in evaluation and treatment decisions for patients with GERD to find a long-term solution.

“There are solutions for GERD,” Tallon said. “People think you just have to live with it, but you don’t. You can get it fixed and enjoy your life again like I am.”

For more information, visit

Enhancing Care at Home for Older Adults

Florida Blue Foundation gives $300,000 grant to Baptist AgeWell to strengthen House Calls program

More seniors with complex medical needs in Northeast Florida will now have access to Baptist AgeWell’s House Calls program, made possible by a $300,000 three-year grant from Florida Blue Foundation. House Call brings the unique AgeWell care model directly to a patient’s home, expanding access to quality healthcare for seniors with complex medical needs that make office visits difficult.

The House Calls program, which began in October 2015, provides routine primary care services that are typically provided in a doctor’s office, such as taking vital signs, listening to the heart and lungs, and following up to make sure all medications are being taken. Home visits are made by nurse practitioners and geriatricians who oversee the care.

House Calls is part of Baptist AgeWell, an enriched type of primary care in Northeast Florida for people ages 65+ who want to be proactive with their health to live more independent and productive lives. Board-certified doctors, along with nurse practitioners, clinical pharmacists, rehab therapists, social workers and psychologists have a unique, comprehensive and interdisciplinary approach to managing health.

“We are grateful to Florida Blue Foundation for providing the grant that will expand our social services team for the House Calls Program,” said Earl Evens, executive director of Baptist Health’s AgeWell Institute. “Being able to replicate our model of care in the homes of patients who are not able to make it to the office is invaluable to older adults in the Jacksonville community.”

The Community Health Needs Assessment in Northeast Florida from May 2019 highlighted the significant need for expanded access to healthcare, particularly for seniors. The grant for the House Calls program will greatly enhance care for this growing demographic, responding to a critical community need. During the next three years, AgeWell expects to make nearly 6,400 home visits and provide care to more than 545 patients who otherwise may not receive much-needed primary care services.

“The Baptist AgeWell House Calls program aligns with the mission of the Florida Blue Foundation to help people and communities achieve better health,” said Florida Blue Foundation Vice President Susan Towler. “The Foundation strategically allocates grants toward community-based solutions through its focus areas and programs that focus on health solutions in the healthcare system, multicultural and growing populations, and critical issues of affordability, access and quality. The House Calls program is vitally important for many seniors in the Jacksonville community.”

 Baptist Health of Northeast Florida names new COO

As health system aligns operations with the health care of tomorrow, Matt Zuino steps in to the chief operations role.

Jacksonville, Fla., January 9, 2019 – The largest locally owned and governed health system in Northeast Florida, Baptist Health, names Matt Zuino as the organization’s new executive vice president and chief operating officer. With 20 years of experience in health system operations and physician integration leadership, Zuino’s role is instrumental in aligning and transforming operations across the continuum of care, with a focus on health.

Zuino joined Baptist Health as president of physician integration in 2017 from Virtua Health, South New Jersey’s largest health system. As SVP and COO of hospital operations at Virtua Health, he led three hospitals totaling 920 beds. In his new role at Baptist Health, Zuino has oversight for hospital and ambulatory operations totaling more than 125 points of care across the North Florida and South Georgia region.

“Matt’s experience aligns precisely with our vision for the future, and his role is critical in ensuring we fold down the hospital walls to deliver care and promote health in ways that are convenient to and valued by all we serve,” said Brett McClung, President and CEO of Baptist Health.

Zuino succeeds John Wilbanks, FACHE, who served at Baptist Health for 34 years and was named one of the Top COOs in Healthcare by Modern Healthcare in 2017 and 2018.

“If ever there was a situation where I had the opportunity to build on the shoulders of giants and help forge the future of health care, this is it.  I couldn’t be more honored or excited,” Zuino said.

He earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration from Widener University in Chester, Pennsylvania, and his Master of Science in information systems from Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He is a certified Six Sigma Black Belt who is well-versed in the techniques and tools of process improvement. He completed the GE Administrative Executive Fellowship for senior executives from the Healthcare Management Academy.


 About Baptist Health

Baptist Health is a faith-based, mission-driven system in Northeast Florida comprised of Baptist Medical Center Jacksonville; Baptist Medical Center Beaches; Baptist Medical Center Nassau; Baptist Medical Center South; Baptist Clay Medical Campus and Wolfson Children’s Hospital – the region’s only children’s hospital.  All Baptist Health hospitals, along with Baptist Home Health Care, have achieved Magnet™ status for excellence in patient care. Baptist Health is part of Coastal Community Health, a highly integrated regional hospital network focused on significant initiatives designed to enhance the quality and value of care provided to our contiguous communities. Baptist Health has the area’s only dedicated heart hospital; orthopedic institute; women’s services; neurological institute, including comprehensive neurosurgical services, a comprehensive stroke center and two primary stroke centers; a Bariatric Center of Excellence; a full range of psychology and psychiatry services; urgent care services; and primary and specialty care physicians’ offices throughout Northeast Florida. The Baptist MD Anderson Cancer Center is a regional destination for multidisciplinary cancer care which is clinically integrated with the MD Anderson Cancer Center, the internationally renowned cancer treatment and research institution in Houston. For more details, visit

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