8,000 Heartbeats Strong

8,000th Patient has Heart Surgery at Methodist Medical Center

Mary Lucas of Wartburg is a relatively healthy woman in her 70s. This past December, she began feeling ill and was having difficulty breathing. Lucas came to Methodist Medical Center for evaluation by cardiothoracic surgeon Bill Hall, MD, and the next morning she was the 8,000th patient to have heart surgery at the hospital.

“An abnormal EKG and emergency heart cath procedure revealed multi-vessel coronary disease with three arteries severely blocked,” says Dr. Hall.  Lucas underwent triple coronary artery bypass surgery and stayed at Methodist Medical Center for five days. Lucas had a history of smoking, which likely led to developing coronary artery disease. She says, “My heart was the last thing I thought of. All the arteries were so blocked, it’s amazing I was even up and walking.”

Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the most common type of heart disease in the U.S. CAD is only one type of heart disease; other types include hardening of the arteries, heart rhythm abnormalities and cardiomyopathy.

Following heart surgery, Lucas says, “The staff was simply remarkable. Anytime I needed something, they were there immediately. Everyone was fantastic. I can’t say enough good things about Dr. Hall. He was just wonderful, and still is.”

Dr. Hall completes a follow up exam with Methodist's 8,000th open heart patient Mary Lucas
Dr. Hall completes a follow up exam with Methodist’s 8,000th open heart patient Mary Lucas

Healing at Home

Four weeks after her surgery, Lucas is doing well and recovering at home. She is undergoing cardiac rehabilitation, a program of supervised exercises that helps her get stronger by the day. She appreciates the nurses at

Covenant HomeCare, whom she says are patient with her and always take the time to answer her questions.

According to Dr. Hall, education is a key component of cardiac rehab. “If a patient has high blood pressure or other ongoing issues that are in his or her control, looking at these lifestyle factors can aid in healing. Making these changes can prevent the problem from returning.”

Lucas says, “My experience was wonderful, and I could not have had a better doctor. He is the best, and he continues to take good care of me.”


Long-time Heart Surgeon Shares History of Methodist’s Heart Program

Bill Hall, MD, is a board-certified thoracic surgeon and cardiothoracic surgery specialist. He is a physician who is beloved by Methodist staff as well as many in the community whose lives he has touched.

Dr. Hall was recruited in 1989 to establish a heart surgery program at Methodist Medical Center by thoracic surgeon Robert E. Ware, MD, who had started another heart surgery program in the region in the 1970s. At that time, only two other hospitals in the area had heart surgery programs.  “Methodist Medical Center offered cardiology, neurosurgery and everything else. Heart surgery was the only thing they were missing,” he says.

MMC Open Heart Team Celebrating 8,000th Patient
Cardiothoracic surgeons Bill Hall, MD, center, and John Hance, MD, third from left, with the two dedicated heart teams at Methodist Medical Center. Dr. Hall is holding a photo of the original heart team members taken when the program started in 1989.

By 1993, the heart surgery program became a robust cornerstone of Methodist. Today, there are two dedicated cardiothoracic surgeons at Methodist Methodist. They work with the hospital’s two open-heart teams to perform hundreds of heart surgeries per year.

Fast Forward

“Things never stay the same in medicine,” muses Dr. Hall. “When I look back, the type of patients that we see now compared to 1989 are more complex– they are sicker, they are older, and it takes a lot of expertise and resources to treat them.” He continues, “It was my goal to have a quality program that would improve each year, attract and retain the best people and provide the highest level of care for my community.”


The heart program continues to grow, offering new procedures and recruiting more physicians. Methodist is a member of Covenant Health, which serves a 23-county region of East Tennessee. As part of the health system, Methodist serves patients from Roane and Loudon counties all the way to Claiborne and Cumberland counties.

“The cardiologists in this area are terrific,” says Dr. Hall. “They are all dedicated to providing the best care possible. We have a good working relationship and are able to discuss problems that arise, and come up with the best way to take care of people.  “I really appreciate that the physicians in Oak Ridge are always asking what’s best for the patient. As long as we are asking what is best for the patient, we are giving them our best.”

Expressing Gratitude

Dr. Hall says he is extremely gratified to see what Methodist’s heart surgery program has become. “The people who made this possible over the years have worked together as a team,” he says. “I couldn’t ask for a better OR team, ICU nurses, and third-floor staff, which is where patients go after the ICU. We also have a terrific medical staff.”

Regarding the number of heart surgeries performed at Methodist, Dr. Hall laughs, “I haven’t done all 8,000 surgeries, but I’ve done a lot of them. I have lived in this community for a long time. So I’ll run into people that I’ve operated on, or it’s been one of their family members. To know we bought someone a few more years means a few more Christmases or family celebrations, and the opportunity to see grandkids be born. It’s the best part of being a physician.

“It’s important for the Oak Ridge area and surrounding counties to have access to high quality healthcare.  As I surpass 32 years in this career, I feel I did what I set out to do.”

Recent open-heart surgery patient Mary Lucas is grateful to Dr. Hall for his devotion to patients. “It’s an honor to thank Dr. Hall for everything he has done,” she says. “He is so worthy, so dedicated and just a wonderful man.”

The Future is Bright

“The future is bright,” Dr. Hall says. “Healthcare will only get better. At Methodist, we try to find people who are committed to doing an excellent job at what they do. The fatigue of battling COVID-19 over the past nine months has been tough on everyone. I can’t say enough about how proud I am of our staff to endure this difficult time.”

He continues, “They are tired, under stress, and they haven’t flinched. They come to work every day, willing to serve, and I am proud to be a part of that.”

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