The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Latest News

April 28, 2013

Memorial adds new heart surgeon

— Memorial Medical Center’s newest heart surgeon has been watching the Conemaugh Health System’s award-winning program from afar.

Dr. Antonio Sortino met Memorial’s heart program co-founder, Dr. Rajsekhar Devineni, when they were both working in Wilkes-Barre General Hospital in the late 1980s.

Devineni was an attending physician in the Wilkes-Barre cardiac surgery program and Sortino was completing fellowship training under his supervision.

“We met during my training,” Sortino, 57, said at Memorial’s heart surgery unit.

“We became good friends and have remained close.”

Devineni went on to join Drs. Jack Kolff and Robert G. Stenberg and launch Johnstown’s heart program in 1990.

After completing his residency at Yale University School of Medicine, with a rotation at Oxford Heart Center in Britain, Sortino joined Three Rivers Cardiac Institute in 1991. Through the institute, Sortino was instrumental in launching Washington Hospital’s heart program in Washington County. For the last 13 years he has been the lead heart surgeon there, and also served as chief of cardiovascular surgery.

“I started the program from scratch and really put it on the map,” Sortino said.  

But Sortino said he advanced that program as far as he could in the limited environment of the Washington system.

“It was time to change,” Sortino said. “With all the new advances in the field, I looked for a new opportunity.”

About that time, he heard Devineni was retiring from Memorial. He called his old friend to see if his new opportunity might be waiting in Johnstown.

“He said, ‘It’s funny. I was just going to call you,’ ” Sortino recalled. “I came here and met Dr. (Savas) Mavridis, and we just clicked.”

Mavridis joined Memorial’s program in its growth stage and was half of the two-doctor heart surgery team with Devineni since Kolff’s 2005 retirement.

Devineni’s retirement earlier this year left Mavridis as the Johnstown program’s only heart surgeon – a role that is all too familiar to Sortino.

“I was essentially a sole practitioner in Washington,” Sortino said, explaining that the Three-Rivers group covers several hospitals, but his partners provided backup and filled in for him when he was on vacation.

“Having a partner – somebody to share the call schedule – is very appealing,” Sortino said.

He also looks forward to being part of Conemaugh’s multifaceted heart team, which includes about a dozen cardiologists and a cadre of experienced nurses,  technologists and physician assistants.

“I had no doubt this organization had a team of people here that is first class,” Sortino said.

“It was very easy to get accustomed to the program. Nurses really go out of their way to get used to my ways.”

Board certified in thoracic surgery, Sortino chose the specialty after his own father died of a heart attack at age 49.

He brings a new technique called the maze procedure to treat abnormal heartbeats with surgery. During this procedure, small incisions are made in the heart tissue to create scar tissue that interrupts electrical patterns responsible for arrhythmia. The surgeon creates a maze of barriers and blind alleys within the heart so the electrical impulse has only one route to travel.

Currently the maze procedure is primarily done in conjunction with other open-heart procedures, Sortino said.

The region is fortunate to have a heart surgeon with Sortino’s acclaim, Mavridis said.

“Dr. Devineni retiring is a great loss for our community, but we are very fortunate to have found a cardiothoracic surgeon of such great caliber as Dr. Sortino,” Mavridis said.

“I am very excited and pleased to work with someone as well trained and experienced as Dr. Sortino.”

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat print edition.

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat e-edition.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Latest News
  • Halfway house inmates can ease back into society

    Prison life can be a time warp.
    When inmates are locked away – for months, years, decades – society moves forward: Technology evolves, major events occur, pop culture changes. From a personal perspective, families and friends live their lives: weddings, funerals, graduations, births, retirements. All the while, criminals bide their time, existing in a regimented world of cement walls and metal bars.
    Almost all of them eventually rejoin society, though.

    April 19, 2014

  • Crime board took aim at house

    Johnstown’s unemployment rate is around 8 percent.
    One-third of the city’s population lives in poverty.
    Burglaries and assaults significantly increased between 2010 and 2012. There is a thriving illegal trade in heroin and prescription drugs.
    Given those conditions, it can be challenging for Johnstown Community Corrections Center residents to find jobs when living in the facility or to avoid falling back into a criminal lifestyle upon their release.

    April 19, 2014

  • Homicides linked to center

    Three homicides that took place in Johnstown last year involved either a suspect or victim who previously resided in the Community Corrections Center.
    Police Chief Craig Foust confirmed the name of one victim, who spent almost two months in the facility on Washington Street during 2007, a time period verified by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.

    April 19, 2014

  • bachota Volunteers helping to spruce up community

    Walls and ceilings inside the Cambria County Library look clean and bright with fresh new coats of paint on them.
    The work was recently done by inmates from the Johnstown Community Corrections Center.

    April 19, 2014 2 Photos

  • alanna Hartzok targets income disparity

    Alanna Hartzok described herself as being a conservative progressive.
    The Franklin County resident said she is in favor of conserving environmental resources, education opportunities, Social Security and Medicare, while wanting to progressively address wealth inequality, health care and taxation.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Schools rise to leadership challenge

    Forest Hills and Cambria Heights high school students put the spirit of healthy competition toward a good cause and picked up some lessons in leadership along the way.

    April 19, 2014

  • KATEY LADIKA Student’s photos win awards

    A Forest Hills High School junior has captured several awards in a high school arts and writing contest that has identified greats such as Truman Capote and Andy Warhol.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Local briefs 4/20/2014

    April 19, 2014

  • Biggest student loan profits come from grad students

    This week, the Congressional Budget Office projected that the federal government would earn roughly $127 billion from student lending during the next 10 years.

    April 19, 2014

  • Smartphone kill switches are coming

    Smartphones need kill switches. It's a relatively easy solution to the pricey (and irritating) problem of smartphone theft. But who would have thought that the big carriers would team up with Apple, Google, Microsoft, Nokia, Samsung and lots of other manufacturers to voluntarily begin adding the technology by July 2015? The cooperative spirit! It makes so much sense!

    April 19, 2014


Would you like to see the Johnstown Community Corrections Center remain open after its lease runs out on Oct. 11, 2015?

I'm not sure
     View Results
Order Photos

Photo Slideshow

House Ads