Category Archives: News

New Procedure Reduces Risk of Stroke for Patients with Atrial Fibrillation

Panama City, Fla. (October 12, 2021) — Ascension Sacred Heart Bay is offering a new procedure that could reduce the chance of stroke for patients with atrial fibrillation (AFib) not caused by heart valve problems. The cardiovascular team at the hospital began treating patients on Oct. 7 with the procedure to implant an innovative device into the heart.

Dr. Amir Haghighat, an interventional cardiologist, says the procedure, which closes the heart’s left atrial appendage, can benefit a select number of patients with atrial fibrillation who are unable to tolerate long-term blood thinners.

“Strokes are one of the most dreaded complications of atrial fibrillation, and a large number of residents in our area suffer from the arrhythmia,” says Haghighat. “The risk of stroke is five times higher if you have AFib. Now, we can offer this advanced procedure to minimize that risk and keep our patients healthy. ”

The first four cases at Ascension Sacred Heart Bay were successfully performed by three cardiac specialists on the medical staff: Dr. Haghighat, Dr. Nghia Hoang, a cardiac electrophysiologist, and Dr. Samir Patel, an interventional cardiologist.

Patients with AFib are typically required to take blood thinners to prevent blood clots from being formed. Patients that are not able to take blood thinners due to the risk of bleeding and additional complications may be eligible to receive the procedure and discontinue blood thinners. The procedure to implant the WATCHMAN TM device is performed in the cardiac cath lab at Ascension Sacred Heart Bay and the majority of patients are discharged the same day or the day after. The hospital is the only one in the Bay County area that performs the procedure.

With AFib, which is the most common type of abnormal heart rhythm disorder, the heart’s upper chambers beat irregularly, affecting heart flow to the heart and the rest of the body. When blood flow is sluggish, it can cause blood clots to form in some patients. This creates an increased risk that a clot will block blood flow to the brain, causing a potentially disabling or deadly stroke.

During the procedure, a catheter is inserted through the groin and is used to place the device in the upper left chamber of the heart where clots mostly commonly develop. The device has a metal frame that is shaped like a parachute. It acts as a filter to prevent blood clots from leaving the heart and entering the bloodstream. The WATCHMAN TM  device is the only FDA-approved device for lowering the risk of stroke in patients with AFib.

Welcome Interventional Cardiologist Dr. Ajay Mhatre

Ajay Mhatre, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.S.C.A.I.

Cardiovascular Institute is pleased to welcome Dr. Ajay Mhatre to our practice. Dr. Mhatre is board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine in Interventional Cardiology, Cardiovascular Diseases and Internal Medicine.
He holds additional certifications in Vascular and Endovascular Medicine and is a Registered Physician in Vascular Interpretation. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in Microbiology from the University of Florida and his medical degree at Florida State University. He completed residency and his Cardiovascular Disease Fellowship at University of Florida and continued his training in Interventional Cardiology at the University of Arkansas. He completed an Advanced Coronary & Endovascular Intervention Fellowship at Phoenix Heart Center in Arizona.

Dr. Mhatre is seeing patients with general cardiology needs as well as providing interventional care for those with coronary artery disease and peripheral vascular disease. He also specializes in limb salvage and has expertise with lower extremity wound care. He has privileges at both Bay Medical Sacred Heart and Gulf Coast Regional Medical Center.

Dr. Mhatre has been practicing in the Phoenix area, but is originally from Lake City, Florida. He and his wife are already very familiar with Panama City and are happy to be back in Florida and closer to family. In his spare time, he enjoys exercising, fishing, college football and spending time with his wife and three children.


Posted by Christa Davis

What is Sudden Cardiac Arrest?

October is Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) Awareness Month. Electrophysiologist Dr. Saeed Khaja of Cardiovascular Institute explains what you need to know about SCA, how doctors determine your risk, and how it can be prevented.

What is Sudden Cardiac Arrest and can it be prevented?

Welcome Electrophysiologist Dr. Khaja

Saeed Khaja, D.O., M.B.A., F.A.C.C.

Cardiovascular Institute is pleased to welcome Cardiac Electrophysiologist Dr. Saeed Khaja to Panama City. Dr. Khaja has recently completed his fellowship training in Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiology at the University of Illinois in Chicago. He attended medical school at Midwestern University Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine followed by residency and cardiovascular fellowship training at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital. Aside from cardiology, he also has critical care experience working at some of the busiest intensive care units in the City of Chicago.

Dr. Khaja also has other professional experiences outside of medicine which include an MBA from Roosevelt University and being a Firefighter and Paramedic. Dr. Khaja is board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine in Internal Medicine and Cardiology. Dr. Khaja is seeing patients with general cardiology needs in addition to providing management and treatment of complex cardiac arrhythmias. He is looking forward to bringing to our community the newest treatments and cutting-edge therapies in the field of cardiac electrophysiology.

Dr. Khaja, his wife and two young sons fell in love with the Panama City area at first sight and are excited to call this city their new home. We are very pleased to have Dr. Khaja on our team.


Posted by Christa Davis

Important COVID-19 Notice Before Your Next Appointment

Preventing the spread of Coronavirus has required many changes for local businesses and Cardiovascular Institute is no exception. Our goal is to continue to see our patients as scheduled, however we have a few new protocols we must follow to keep our patients and staff as healthy as possible.

First, if you are sick or have been exposed to a person with flu like symptoms within the last two weeks, please stay home and reschedule your visit.  If you have have traveled from areas that are experiencing an outbreak within the last two weeks, please reschedule your visit and self quarantine per CDC guidelines. If you have a smart phone or a computer with a web cam and microphone, you may be eligible to simply change your appointment to a video visit.  Ask our receptionist about TeleVisits.

When visiting our office for an appointment or test, masks are required to protect the health of our patients and staff. Please practice social distancing from other patients and ask any guests that are with you to wait in the car so there is plenty of room for other patients. We will be screening patients at the door and taking temperatures. We will not be able to allow guests in the exam room with you except for truly exceptional circumstances.  Don’t forget to cover any coughs or sneezes with your elbow, upper arm or a tissue.  Avoid touching your face if possible and wash your hands with soap often.

Our staff will frequently sanitize office surfaces and work diligently to maintain a clean, healthy space for your cardiovascular care. Please help us help you by respecting the current CDC guidelines to prevent spreading contagious illness.


Posted by Christa Davis

Now Offering Video Visits Through Your Smart Phone or Laptop

UPDATE:  Patients who will be accessing their TeleVisit from a smart phone will receive a text a half an hour before their appointment with a link.  Simply click on the link to access your appointment!  Easy!


Established patients with Cardiovascular Institute can now request video appointments in lieu of in-office visits during this time of social distancing to prevent spreading illness.  All you need is an email address and a smart phone, tablet, or a laptop/computer with a web camera and microphone and you can visit your cardiologist from the comforts of home.

Step 1:   To schedule your “TeleVisit” or to change an already scheduled appointment to a TeleVisit, please call our office at (850)769-0329.  If you do not already have an email on file with us, you will need to provide one in order to have your account web enabled.

Step 2:  You will receive an email with instructions on how to access our patient portal and information about the Healow app for your smart phone.   If your account was already web enabled, simply download the Healow app from your phone’s app store or log in from your computer at    Your user name is the email you provided.  Set up your account or if you’ve logged in previously and do not remember your password, click on “forgot password” to request a password reset to be sent to your email.

Step 3: When it’s time for your appointment, log-in to the app on your phone or to the website from your computer and click “Start TeleVisit”.  If you have a home blood pressure monitor, please take your BP readings prior to your visit, you will be able to enter your numbers or any other vital signs such as temperature.  Keep in mind that just like any other appointment, there are patients being seen both in office and on screen ahead of you that may cause a delay.  However your provider will receive notifications  that you are ready for your appointment and will join you on your screen as soon as possible.

Need more details?  Never fear.  Below are detailed  instructions on exactly how to set up your account through the Healow app or through the website and how to activate your visit.  We’re excited to launch this new tool to help our patients.  We know that it’s new to you and it is new to us too, so we ask for your patience and understanding as we begin offering this new service.



Below are instructions for accessing the patient portal on your computer and also instructions for accessing it on your phone.  Please keep in mind these are first time set up instructions and all of these steps will not have to be performed each time, only for the initial set up.

Iphone or Android Access:

  1. You will need to download the Healow app from the app store on your smartphone.
  2. Once the app is downloaded you will need to log in with your user name and password. The username will be the email address.
  3. If you do not know you password, select “forgot password” and a link will be sent to the email address on file for you to reset this.
  4. Once you have successfully logged in, you will select “Find My Doctor”. It will give you the option to search by physician or practice.  Please select search by practice and put in Cardiovascular Institute and also Panama City for the city.
  5. Select Cardiovascular Institute at the top.
  6. You will have to agree to the terms and agreements.
  7. You will also have to allow microphone and camera access for TeleVisit appointments.
  8. It will ask you to verify your cell phone number so that it can send you a verification code.
  9. Once you have completed all of this (which is a one time set up), you should be at the dashboard. Once you are at the dashboard for the Healow app, you will see a wheel with options.  The appointment option will be at the top.  To see your appointments that you have, select appointment.
  10. Select the appropriate TeleVisit appointment and then select “Start TeleVisit” at the bottom.
  11. It will ask you for your vitals next so if you were able to check those at home, please enter them here. Once you are done select “submit vitals”.
  12. Next select “Start TeleVisit”. This will let the provider know that you are signed in, vitals entered and that you are ready for your visit.


Computer access for patient portal:  If your computer is equipped with a microphone and a camera, you may use a computer to access the patient portal for your TeleVisit:


  1. Use the following link to access our patient portal:
  2. Use your email address for the log in name and then enter your password.
  3. If you cannot log in, you can click on “trouble logging in” and it will give you options if you have forgotten your user name or password.
  4. Once you are logged in, you will be at the dashboard and be able to see your TeleVisit appointments.
  5. Select “Join TeleVisit”
  6. Accept user agreement
  7. Download the plug-in
  8. Click on Run
  9. Click on the refresh browser button
  10. It will run a compatibility test to make sure it detects your camera and microphone
  11. It will give you the option to enter your vital signs.
  12. You will now be able to click on “Start TeleVisit” and it will let the provider know you are signed in and ready.


Posted by Christa Davis

New Treatment for Atrial Fibrillation Now Available at Bay Med

Dr. Nghia Hoang is offering a new treatment method for atrial fibrillation – cryoablation.  This minimally invasive method uses extreme cold to create a frostbite scar in the area of the heart that is generating the abnormal heart rhythm.  This frostbite scar blocks the abnormal electrical signals and keeps the heart in normal rhythm. Research has shown cryoablation to have improved outcomes over traditional radiofrequency ablation techniques in treating atrial fibrillation.  Take a look at this story form WMBB News 13:  New Technology Available at Bay Medical Center


Posted by Christa Davis

CVI Welcomes Dr. Nghia Hoang, Electrophysiologist

Nghia HoangCardiovascular Institute is pleased to announce that cardiac electrophysiologist, Dr. Nghia Hoang, has joined our practice. Dr. Hoang is certified by the American Board of Osteopathic Internal Medicine in Cardiology and Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiology and is a Certified Cardiac Device Specialist with the International Board of Heart Rhythm Examiners. Dr. Hoang received his D.O. at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. He completed his residency at Lehigh Valley Hospital in Allentown, PA and his Cardiovascular Fellowship at Deborah Heart & Lung Center in New Jersey. He completed his electrophysiology training at Drexel University College of Medicine as Chief Electrophysiology Fellow in 2012.

Dr. Hoang comes to us from Lehigh Valley Hospital in Pennsylvania where he also served as Assistant Professor of Medicine with the University of South Florida at the Pennsylvania branch campus of their medical school. Dr. Hoang brings a wealth of experience in cardiac ablation for atrial fibrillation and ventricular arrhythmia and the latest in cardiac rhythm device technology. In addition, he received 5-star ratings from his many patients in Pennsylvania. Dr. Hoang enjoys spending any free time with his wife and two children and the whole family is looking forward to warmer winters, the coastal lifestyle, and getting to know their new community.


Posted by Christa Davis

Local Woman Shares Her Heart Attack Survival Story

Leslie Kolovich never imagined she could be at risk for a major heart attack.  She was just 52, a non-smoker, lived an active lifestyle and had a healthy diet.  She dismissed some of the warning signs as “just getting older” and “stress”.  Watch as Leslie shares her story of how she nearly died and what she has learned since.
dentistry in the heart