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Between Frittatas, Colonoscopies and Rebranding at Florida Hospital Flagler

| September 27, 2018

From left, Wally deAquino, Dean Abtahi and Issam Nasr, physicians at Florida Hospital Flagler (deAquino is also the hospital’s chief operating officer), headlined a Common Ground breakfast this morning at Palm Coast’s Hilton. (c FlaglerLive)

From left, Wally deAquino, Dean Abtahi and Issam Nasr, physicians at Florida Hospital Flagler, headlined a Common Ground breakfast this morning at Palm Coast’s Hilton. (c FlaglerLive)


On one hand, there were the delectable frittatas, that Mediterranean specialty that doesn’t exactly honors the Mediterranean diet–fried eggs, carmelized onions, a thick coating of cheese, all made to look like a slice of Sicilian pizza surrounded by a hearty load of carbs: home fries.

They ate, the 45-odd people in attendance at this morning’s Common Ground breakfast at the Palm Coast Hilton, the periodic gathering hosted by the Flagler Chamber of Commerce, featuring speakers in prominent local industries or government.

On the other hand, there was Dean Abtahi, a cardiologist at Florida Hospital Flagler, speaking of clogged arteries, the “silent killer” of high blood pressure, the lethality of not exercising, the deleterious effects of processed food, the importance of a balanced and healthy diet. He was followed by Issam Nasr, a gastroenterologist who spoke of the 10,000 species of bacteria that get busy deconstruction and demolishing whatever ends up in the colon–frittatas included, presumably–and the occasional cells that go awry, turning cancerous: “We have the mechanism to go and kill that cell because we don’t want it there.”

At least until middle age, when that mechanism becomes a bit less effective. In comes the necessity of colonoscopies. Resisting them is not worth it, given the dire alternative. “It changes everything, you’re going in this direction, suddenly it’s going in another direction,” Nasr said of colon cancer. “Why? Because we’re not preventing it.”

Nasr joked that “it’s a lot easier to sell time shares” than to convince people that they need colonoscopies, one of creation’s most unappealing ironies: without that rather humiliatingly invasive procedure, one risks being among the 150,000 people affected by colon cancer who won’t know it, and who’ll vastly increase their risk of becoming part of the 50,000 people who die of that cancer every year.

But Nasr, Abtahi and Wally deAquino, the new Chief Operating Officer at Florida Hospital Flagler, were before the Common Ground assembly this morning to reassure rather than to worry their audience: preventive medicine is where it’s at, along with advances in technology (the hospital is one in a handful providing robotics-driven knee-replacement surgery) and a growing roster of specialists.

And not just specialists. DeAquino said Florida Hospital Flagler i looking to “refocus on our leaders to make sure they are involved with our community,” whether as volunteers, as experts or through other means. “The priority is that they get involved in something they are passionate about.” And if they’re not passionate about anything, the hospital will help them find a passion, DeAquino said.

Naturally, this being a forum involving Florida Hospital Flagler officials, the matter of “rebranding” was among the chief topics of discussion.

Dunkin Donuts is rebranding–to “Dunkin.” Weight Watchers is rebranding–to “WW.”

“I was waiting for the wrestling piece of it,” DeAquino said, explaining why the Florida Hospital system–part of the Adventist Health Systems–is rebranding as well, to AdventHealth Palm Coast.

“The first question I get is why,” he said. The hospital in Flagler belongs to a national company with 46 hospitals in 11 states. “We were never seen as a national system,” he said. And surveys point to a desire among a majority of patients to be cared for by national rather than local health organizations.

Another reason is to reduce confusion. DeAquino spoke of the numerous patients who show up at the hospital in Palm Coast when they’re supposed to be at Flagler Hospital in St. Augustine, or the guy who showed up, resume in hand, for a job interview at the St. Augustine hospital when he was supposed to meet deAquino in Palm Coast. That, too, is a reason for the change.

The Palm Coast name will be attached selectively to the hospital’s name locally, but the aim is to have it identified by its national name, the way Mayor or Shands are identified.

DeAquino spoke of the hospital’s new direction before turning the mic over to the two other physicians, when the talk turned to health matters.

“I had questions I’m not going to ask in the room,” the chamber’s Heather Edwards said at the end.

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4 Responses for “Between Frittatas, Colonoscopies and Rebranding at Florida Hospital Flagler”

  1. Karen says:

    If anyone out there is new to the area or wants to make a change, I would highly recommend Dr. Issam Nasr, Gastroenterologist. Dr. Nasr and the rest of his staff go above and beyond to make sure your needs are being met, your questions are answered, and not to mention they treat you like family !!

  2. Susie says:

    Dr. Nasr is the BEST. He saved my husband’s life last year due to emergency gall bladder surgery and events thereafter. He personally stood by us throughout the entire process and we cannot THANK him enough.

    So happy to have him in our area!

  3. Resident says:

    I love Dr Nasr…he is just the best around. I had a wonderful experience by seeing him for my problem.

  4. Palm coast says:

    I agree…Dr. Nasr is the kindest doctor I have ever been to in my life!!!

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