Baptist Health Paducah welcomes cardiovascular surgeon who brings new procedures to western Kentucky

PADUCAH, Ky.  — When cardiovascular surgeon Dr. Austin Ward returned home to practice at Baptist Health Paducah this summer, he joined the heart team that performed the first transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) procedure in western Kentucky last October.

On Oct. 22, 2019, Drs. Martin Rains and Michael Faulkner structural interventional cardiologists, and cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Nicholas Lopez successfully performed the first TAVR on an 87-year-old Ballard County man. TAVR is an innovative new procedure for cardiac patients that offers a minimally invasive alternative to traditional open-heart surgery. The procedure uses a catheter to replace a failing heart valve, making it much less invasive than open-heart operations.

Drs. Rains and Faulkner both grew up in western Kentucky, and chose to return home to practice with the goal of bringing TAVR to our area.

“Starting our TAVR program is a huge step forward for our patients in the region,” Dr. Faulkner said at the time. “Previously, our patients have had to travel long distances to get this type of procedure. This is a monumental milestone for us.”

Likewise, Dr. Ward, who also grew up in Paducah, had a strong desire to return home and provide world-class health care to his community when he joined the team in August.

Dr. Ward brought with him the expertise to perform procedures previously not offered in the area. A month after arriving, he led the heart team in performing the area’s first TAVR procedure through the carotid artery. Most TAVR procedures replace failing heart valves through insertion in the groin.

“I feel like I hit the jackpot with the chance to come back to my hometown and do what I love every day,” Dr. Ward said. “I love that every patient presents a new challenge or problem to solve. This is where I have the opportunity to use my hands to influence physiology and outcomes every day. It is an honor and privilege to be trusted with the cardiothoracic surgical care of patients and I am thankful for the opportunity to provide world-class care without patients having to travel out of our community.”

Dr. Ward specializes in cardiothoracic surgery, treating valvular and ischemic heart disease, as well as diseases of the lungs. He focuses on valve repair and replacement, including minimally invasive valve surgery and transcatheter treatments, coronary artery bypass surgery, including multiple arterial grafting, and minimally invasive treatment of lung diseases. He also offers the area’s only robotic thoracic surgery program for the treatment of lung nodules and cancers.

He graduated from the University of Kentucky College of Medicine, completed a general surgery residency at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine and a cardiothoracic surgery fellowship at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.