DR. AND MRS. JEFF CARR
2021 HEART BALL HONOREES
A Wonderful Life!
by Robert Marlin
When asked about their reaction on being chosen as the 2021 Tyler Heart Ball Honorees, Dr. Jeff Carr and his wife Michelle both expressed surprise and gratitude. “Honestly, I was surprised and also pleased to have been recognized for our work in the Tyler community,” Jeff said modestly. Michelle laughed, nervously at first, stating, “I don’t know. It’s a good question. I think it is a generous and kind honor, and naturally we are both very grateful.”
Jeff grew up in Glendale, California, a suburb of Los Angeles. “In the time when I grew up, Glendale was a family-oriented community with a small-town feel. I enjoyed my early years in that atmosphere,” Jeff remembers. Michelle had a similar experience, growing up in an Orange County beach community. “We met through friends at a Christian organization on the UCLA campus. We were married in 1986 when Jeff finished his second year of medical school, and I was working on my master’s in social work at USC,” Michelle explains.
“I was at UCLA for fifteen years, beginning with my undergraduate studies all the way through medical school, residency and fellowship training,” says Jeff. Throughout his medical training, Jeff was exposed to the wide variety of specialty fields, “For a while, I thought about surgery. But at that time, I was learning about new, minimally invasive procedures and innovations in cardiology. This is what eventually drove me toward choosing interventional cardiology and peripheral vascular interventions over cardiothoracic surgery.”
Jeff was honored with a fellowship in Interventional Cardiology at UCLA and was offered a position on the faculty at the prestigious UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine. “By that time, we had two children, ages two and five. I wanted to use the skills I had learned and to work in an atmosphere where I could be directly involved in the decision-making process with my patients and practice. Michelle wanted to look beyond California, for a family-oriented community where we could raise our children.” It was the Tyler community that made the biggest impact on the Carrs. “Tyler reminded us both of the environment we experienced growing up in Southern California,” Michelle says. “It is a beautiful city with friendly people, and the medical community was booming,” Jeff adds.
At that time, Jeff believed that moving to Tyler in 1994 to join CardiaStream (previously Cardiovascular Associates of East Texas) meant surrendering his aspirations to pursue broader interests in new device innovation and design, teaching, research and health care policy. He found his practice in Tyler professionally very rewarding in taking care of cardiac and vascular patients and bringing new procedures and programs to advance care locally but initially doubted what he could do on a national level living in East Texas. It was in 2005, Jeff was asked to testify to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in Washington D.C. about When asked about their reaction on being chosen as the 2021 Tyler Heart Ball Honorees, Dr. Jeff Carr and his wife Michelle both expressed surprise and gratitude. “Honestly, I was surprised and also pleased to have been recognized for our work in the Tyler community,” Jeff said modestly. Michelle laughed, nervously at first, stating, “I don’t know. It’s a good question. I think it is a generous and kind honor, and naturally we are both very grateful.” DR. AND MRS. JEFF CARR 2021 HEART BALL HONOREES by Robert Marlin A Wonderful Life! 80 FEBRUARY / MARCH 2021 photo by Donna Cummings Photography SPECIAL SECTION SPONSORED BY the then-largest proposed medical corporation merger in history and antitrust issues. “Speaking before the FTC Commissioners to communicate the clinical implications of this decision and impact on access to care and costs was an incredible experience and launched many subsequent opportunities for me nationally. I realized that I am equally challenged and passionate about caring for my patients on an individual level as I am about working on national policies that affect patients’ lives and access to care across the nation.”
In 2013, a medical device manufacturer asked Jeff to speak and advocate at Medicare headquarters and Congress. “I explained the effect Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) has on the circulatory system and why their proposal to cut funding by 40% would be detrimental, especially to a significant number of underserved populations who otherwise would not have access to the kind of medical care they needed. Too often, patients are still having limbs removed from unnecessary amputations due to atherosclerosis and restricted blood flow. We have interventional techniques that make it possible to open arteries and restore blood flow to the legs. Unfortunately, patients who have a major leg amputation have a 50% chance of dying within two years. Through access to proper vascular care, not only can we save the limbs, we can save lives.” Jeff added, “I was able to speak to physicians and non-physician policy makers at Medicare and educate them on the impact their decisions would have on patient care. They actually listened and reversed their position.”
As a result of these experiences, Jeff assumed a national leadership role in educating policy makers, traveling to Washington D.C. at least three times a year. Jeff is the Founding President of the Outpatient Endovascular and Interventional Society (OEIS, oeisociety.com), a multi-specialty society of vascular surgeons, cardiologists and radiologists focused on performing safe and appropriate cardiac and vascular care in an outpatient setting. He also helped create the Cardiovascular Coalition (cardiovascularcoalition.com), charged with advancing patient access to care for PAD by improving awareness, reducing geographic and ethnic disparities in leg amputations and securing patient access to high-quality, cost-effective interventional treatment across America. The Cardiovascular Coalition fights to promote and preserve patient access to enable doctors across the country to open arteries to alleviate leg pain and heal wounds. With Jeff’s input, and working with congressional leaders, this Coalition recently introduced a PAD Bill in Congress to prevent unnecessary amputations. “Although challenging, my advocacy role in Washington D.C. has been very gratifying,” Jeff says reflectively. “I am able to use my skills, talents, and experience to make an impact on a national level. That is very satisfying.”
Not only has Jeff been a voice for advocacy, but he also conducts research in advanced cardiac, arterial and venous interventional devices and techniques and teaches physicians at national and international conferences. Physicians have traveled from all over the U.S. and even internationally to the CardiaStream office in Tyler to learn firsthand to improve their knowledge and interventional skills. He also is the founder and current Medical Director of the OEIS National Registry which collects data from physicians across the U.S. to report their procedure outcomes to demonstrate safety, quality and appropriateness.
Looking back on his career, Jeff says he is as passionate now as when he first started in practice. “I wake up every day excited about what I do. I am so grateful for the longstanding relationships I have had with my patients and colleagues over the years. I am extremely privileged that I have the opportunity to care for patients and make a positive impact in their lives.”
Michelle also has no regrets about leaving California for East Texas. “I made a conscious decision to be at home with my children. We had no family here when we came to Tyler, and the friendships we made took the place of that.” Her background in social work has not been wasted. Michelle found volunteer work with various nonprofits to be fulfilling. Michelle served on the Tyler ISD Board for nine years and is currently involved in the Women’s Fund of Smith County and Niños de Promesa, an English Immersion Preschool. “I recently began volunteering at Bethesda Clinic. I don’t have direct contact with patients, but I am involved with the staff by helping them find resources necessary to assist people who have needs beyond the scope of the Clinic.”
For both Jeff and Michelle, the relationships they have grown over the years in Tyler, and opportunities to practice their skills and give back to the community, have been their true blessings. “It has given us a wonderful life!”