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The lasting impact of cardiologist’s international experience

Cardiologist Dr Chris Nunn credits the Heart Foundation for allowing him to gain the international experience he needed to establish a groundbreaking interventional angioplasty programme.

Dr Chris Nunn cardiologist angioplasty programme

Dr Chris Nunn, Director of Cardiology at Waikato Hospital, says the Heart Foundation Fellowship he received many years ago enabled him to gain cutting-edge international experience that led to his role in establishing the hospital’s interventional primary angioplasty programme.  

As an Otago Medical School graduate, Dr Nunn, was awarded a Heart Foundation Overseas Training Fellowship in 1991 to train at the University of Florida.

“My experience really resulted from this international scholarship, which allowed me to go to Florida for 2½ years. There I worked with a team who were involved with the very early primary angioplasty trials for heart attack victims,” says Dr Nunn.

“Before then, if you had a heart attack, you received drugs to dissolve blood clots, and then you crossed your fingers,” he explains.  

“This new work was designed to get people who were often very, very sick into the cath lab and unblock the artery, using balloon catheters. We demonstrated that by doing that, you save lives by at least 10-20%, or thereabouts, depending on how sick the patient is.”

After his time in Florida, Dr Nunn brought his freshly acquired expertise back to New Zealand to establish the interventional programme at Waikato Hospital in 1994 – introducing stenting and primary angioplasty for acute heart attack patients.

“We’ve been running a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week, primary angioplasty programme there ever since. Our interventional team has really grown since then. Obviously there is a lot more variety now, and a lot greater technology is used for a variety of things, but, that’s where it started. I’m grateful to the Heart Foundation for enabling me to do the things that I was able to do.”

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