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Dr. Kendall M. Griffith: Making a Difference in Cardiac Medicine

Dr. Kendall M. Griffith:  Making a Difference in Cardiac Medicine
JOINS MEADOWS STAFF — Board Certified Interventional Cardiologist Dr. Kendall M. Griffith has joined the medical staff at Memorial Health Meadows Hospital in Vidalia. He is known for pioneering cardiac health care in his homeland in the Caribbean.
Dr. Kendall M. Griffith:  Making a Difference in Cardiac Medicine
JOINS MEADOWS STAFF — Board Certified Interventional Cardiologist Dr. Kendall M. Griffith has joined the medical staff at Memorial Health Meadows Hospital in Vidalia. He is known for pioneering cardiac health care in his homeland in the Caribbean.

From an early age, Dr. Kendall M. Griffith was sure he wanted to make a difference in healthcare, and he found inspiration from within his own family. The Board Certified Interventional Cardiologist, who pioneered cardiac health care in his homeland in the Caribbean, is among the latest additions to the medical team at Memorial Health Meadows Hospital in Vidalia.

Dr. Griffith was born on the island of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where at the age seven years old, he became interested in the field of medicine. He had a younger sister who seemed to be developing normally as an infant, and even began to crawl, but who then stopped reaching physical milestones as a toddler and became more handicapped as she matured.

“My parents blamed the healthcare system,” he said, noting that his sister was eventually diagnosed with cerebral palsy. But there were no resources for the family, and as the young boy witnessed his family’s frustrations, he determined, “I am going to change the healthcare system in the Virgin Islands.” As he grew into manhood, Dr. Griffith said every application he made to pursue higher education emphasized his goal. “I 100% intended to make a difference.”

After earning an undergraduate degree from Morehouse College in the United States in 1988, Dr. Griffith obtained a graduate degree from the University of Miami School of Medicine in 1994, undertook his residency at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami in 1997, and completed his fellowship at Mount Sinai Medical Center of Florida in 2001.

Before practicing in Georgia, Dr. Griffith ran a successful practice, Cardiovascular Associates of the Virgin Islands, and traveled throughout the Caribbean to proctor and conduct cardiac procedures.

He is the former Chief Executive Officer of the Governor Juan F. Luis Hospital and Medical Center in St. Croix, where he established the first Interventional cardiology program in the Virgin Islands in 2002. He performed the Virgin Islands’ first coronary angioplasty and successfully implanted the Virgin Islands’ first cardiac defibrillator. He was instrumental in the training of the cardiac catheterization laboratory staff in Guyana, and also proctored the first permanent pacemaker and cardiac defibrillator implantation in St. Lucia, West Indies, as well as in Tortola, British Virgin Islands.

Dr. Griffith also served as Executive Director of the Virgin Islands Cardiac Center (VICC) for eight years and as Medical Officer at Juan F. Luis Hospital and Medical Center for three years. He is past Chairman of Virgin Islands Medical Institute Board of Directors, a member of the American Medical Association, Virgin Islands Medical Society, and a Council Member of the Caribbean Cardiac Society.

A Distinguished Fellow of the American College of Cardiology, Dr. Griffith is also a Fellow of the Society of Cardiovascular Angioplasty and Intervention. He was previously affiliated with HCA’s Memorial Health University Medical Center in Savannah, a sister facility to Meadows Hospital in Vidalia. He also runs My Heart Doctor, a practice in Statesboro, and is also affiliated with Coffee Regional Medical Center in Douglas. His Vidalia office is located in the Lucy Pierson Building.

It is not an overstatement to say that Dr. Griffith pioneered cardiac health care in the Caribbean. Dr. Griffith proctored for Medtronic, a medical equipment company which manufactures devices for cardiac surgery, and travelled around the Caribbean training medical colleagues and their staffs in the use of this equipment. His profound impact on cardiac medicine is reflected in the fact that the medical community in Guyana named a catheterization lab in his honor.

Considering the progress made in cardiac care in the Caribbean, Dr. Griffith said many of the island countries, which offer a combination of private and government-funded care, have done well, “but Guyana has taken heart health to a whole different level doing interventional cardiology and open heart surgery.” He reflected, “There is a sense of pride in seeing these great things in Guyana knowing I was a part of it. For me it is about being able to impact the regular man who does not have the ability to take a plane and go somewhere for treatment.”

Dr. Griffith looks back on his choices in life as a series of “whys.” His first “why” for choosing a career in health care was his younger sister’s battle with cerebral palsy. His second “why,” the turning point which guided him to cardiac medicine, involved his older sister. In 1994, Dr. Griffith was at the University of Miami School of Medicine earning his graduate degree. One day while working as an intern, he received a gut-wrenching phone call from his mother. His older sister had died from a heart attack at the age of 45. The experience left an indelible imprint on his soul. “I didn’t want any other family to go through this if I could help,” he said. He laser focused on a career in interventional cardiac medicine which seeks not only to prevent heart attacks, but to employ life-saving techniques like catheterization and placing stents to counteract damage to the heart.

After a long and successful career in cardiac medicine in the Caribbean, Dr. Griffith said he was proud of the accomplishments that had been made at home, but he was already looking for his next “why.” He sought a way to continue his work and to create a legacy for future generations. “I needed to go back to the states, and I needed a new ‘why.’ I am driven by sense of purpose, not money; I need to know I am making a difference.”

He departed St. Croix in 2017 and joined a cardiac practice in Statesboro; a little later he began his own practice, My Heart Doctor. He resigned his hospital privileges at Memorial in Savannah and turned his attention to the smaller community of Vidalia. “I chose Vidalia because it is a watershed area,” he said of his decision to begin a practice at the regional medical center. Now, Dr. Griffith spends his time between his Statesboro and Vidalia offices, with occasional visits to Douglas.

“I want My Heart Doctor to be in every small town in America,” he said of the concept of bringing life-saving cardiac medicine within reach of rural communities. “That is my third ‘why,’ to make a difference in small communities” — places where people are still dying too often of heart disease. Dr. Griffith’s goals fit well with the mission at Meadows. “Working with CEO Matt Hasbrouck at Meadows is awesome. He is one of the best leaders with whom I have ever worked,” Dr. Griffith avowed. Hasbrouck said, “We are excited to have Dr. Griffith join our medical staff. He has significant experience in interventional cardiology that will benefit our patients. Our goal at Meadows is to bring healthcare closer to home for Toombs County and the surrounding region, and Dr. Griffith is a great addition to our cardiovascular service.”

Dr. Griffith and his wife, Dawn Mannings, a hospitalist at East Georgia Hospital in Statesboro, can be proud of the health care legacy created within their own family. Their oldest daughter is in her third year of medical school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill . She plans to pursue interventional radiology. Their second daughter is in her first year of medical school at Morehouse and has a practice in dermatology in her sites. Their third daughter is pursuing an undergraduate degree at the University of Miami and wants to be a psychologist. Their 13-year-old son is still deciding what career path he will take.

Dr. Griffith summarized, “My life has always been about legacy. They taught us that at Morehouse where we were groomed to make a difference. Now, at this point deep into in my career, it’s about legacy, about making a positive change in this world. I look forward to serving Vidalia and doing it for a long time.”

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