ATLANTA - A Piedmont Hospital cardiologist is working to improve heart health in his home country of Ethiopia, which he says suffers from an incredibly high death rate from cardiovascular disease.
Dr. Tesfaye Telila practices at Piedmont hospitals in Newnan and Fayetteville. In a couple weeks, during Heart Health Month, he and his wife, Dr. Obsinet Merid, will lead a team of medical volunteers from metro Atlanta to their home country of Ethiopia, where they say heart attacks and strokes don’t just kill the elderly.
"The vast majority of these patients who are dying from heart attacks and strokes are actually very young," Telila said.
FOX 5 was at Piedmont Newnan Hospital’s cath lab where Dr. Telila was preparing for a full day of procedures.
He says in Ethiopia, there is a waiting list of more than 6,000 people who need heart care of some type.
"This includes children. This includes adults, even pregnant women that are waiting for life-saving operations."
Dr. Telila is a successful interventional cardiologist. His wife is an assistant professor at Morehouse School of Medicine and Grady Medical Campus.
Together, they have founded a nonprofit organization called Heart Attack Ethiopia in which this month they and their team will spend up to two weeks providing procedures and helping setup sustainable care centers for the future.
Dr. Telila says Ethiopia is in a health crisis because among other factors, Westernization has caused skyrocketing heart disease. It is a country of 120 million people; the population is served by only 5 cardiovascular surgeons.
"Just controlling blood pressure will go a long way to saving more lives."
He says that unlike in the U.S,, heart attacks and strokes are killing men and women in their 40s and 50s, who he says make up a vast majority of the country’s workforce.