Improving Patient Care

Helping people is the driving force for Dr. Sergio Tavares, one of the leading cardiac and thoracic surgeons in the area who brings his talents to the Corpus Christi Medical Center.

By: Sarah Tindall
Photos by: Dustin Ashcraft

Dr.Sergio Tavares serves as one of the leading cardiac and thoracic surgeons in South Texas.

Tavares, who is the director of cardiovascular surgery at Corpus Christi Medical Center, has practiced in Corpus Christi since he moved here in July 1983, fresh out of his medical training, and he has enjoyed being part of an ever-evolving field in which patient care has improved so drastically.

Tavares was born in southern Brazil and spent his formative years there, attending medical school at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro before coming to the States to do an internship and residency at the University of Maryland. By June 1982, he was board certified in general surgery and looking around to see what his next move would be.

He met up with a surgeon from Corpus Christi at a medical conference who encouraged him to come visit. “It was the middle of December and 75 degrees,” Tavares says. “My wife and I decided it was perfect.” And the rest is history: The couple arrived in July and have been an integral part of the community ever since. Tavares received his board certification in thoracic cardiovascular surgery in 1984.

For Tavares, why he picked such a tough field has a straightforward explanation: “I enjoyed my studies, liked to do homework and extra reading and volunteer for different projects, and then worked hard in college to get good grades. I had an early interest in heart surgery. The level of difficulty and longer training time appealed to me, as well as the additional level of expertise required. The whole thing about the heart as the center of the circulatory system and the center of emotions played a role, but also, early on in medical school, I had exposure to mentors that were in that area and encouraged the pursuit of new and exciting routes and ideas and plans for future changes in the specialty.

“Those changes included the utilization of heart surgery without pumps, which caught my interest early on. I was one of the early applicants of that technique, and it turned out to be a very good process to facilitate patients’ recoveries.”

And those improvements in patient treatment and care have kept coming throughout his career and kept Tavares interested in the field. “The whole approach has to be patient safety and quality of care with a denominator of the cost that provides the concept of value for the patient,” Tavares says.

“It is our responsibility to ensure a high quality of care in a very safe environment, while at the same time, keeping a close eye on cost to produce value for our patients. What we do changes lives for some patients and improves quality of life for others. The whole concept is to change the science, find new medicines and new technical approaches to patient care and determine procedures that can improve the quality of life for patients. This is an ongoing thing, as we continue to be better at what we do. It is never a fixed thing.”

Some of the newest innovations he is most excited about are the application of fibroblasts (early cells that learn to become heart/heart muscle cells). These cells can be injected in patients’ hearts to improve the heart’s functionality without the necessity of a transplant. This technology is on the horizon, and it is not ready yet, but Tavares believes it will help patients and save lives because so many patients die while waiting on the transplant list for a heart to become available.

Throughout his career, Tavares says he has enjoyed the immediate gratification that comes with helping his patients. Cardiac surgery is like that – unlike other forms of medicine.

“Sometimes you have to realize that you can’t save all patients; some patients’ conditions and the tissue quality of their hearts is beyond repair and you may lose the patients, but those situations are rare,” Tavares says. “Most of the time, you see grateful, happy faces looking back at you. That is what keeps me after it, working such long hours, spending my time worrying about my patients, wanting what is best for them, realizing that life and death lurk around every corner. You need to be prepared to tackle it in your complete self so that you can help as many people as possible.”

Helping people – the reason Tavares says led him and most of his fellow doctors into medicine in the first place – is still the driving force behind his practice today.

For more information about Dr. Sergio Tavares, go to 601 Texan Trail, Ste. 205, or call 361-884-7081.

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