Working with the community... for a healthier community.

Award-Winning Heart Care Team Offers Complete Heart Care Services

  February 03, 2018

The Heart of the Matter.

Your heart is your body’s hub. It makes sure that all parts of your body receive the amount of blood that they need to function optimally — keeping you at your healthiest and feeling your best. It helps your brain make good decisions, keeps your muscles strong, and plays an important role in giving you the energy you need to do the things you enjoy. While we may regularly try to eat right and exercise well to take care of our hearts, most of us probably do not think about needing medical attention for our hearts at some point during our lifetime. The truth is that heart disease, which includes stroke and other cardiovascular diseases, is widespread in the United States, and when you need heart care, sometimes you need it quickly. February is Heart Month and a great time to start thinking about who you trust to care for your heart.

Enter the Heart Care team at Merit Health Wesley — a powerhouse of heart care with services that run the gamut, top providers — known for staying on the cutting edge of patient care and procedures, and third-party endorsements that prove they’re the real deal.

Award-winning care, backed by the best
“Heart patients, like all patients, require a specific and special kind of care,” said Mike Neuendorf, Chief Executive Officer of Merit Health Wesley.

The hospital has gone to great lengths to let patients know that they can expect that specialized care at Merit Health Wesley.

Accredited by the Society of Cardiovascular Patient Care, Merit Health Wesley is the area’s first and only accredited Chest Pain Center.

This means the skilled staff at Merit Health Wesley know the warning signs and are able to deliver rapid treatment to patients in the onset stages of a coronary event. They are able to precisely determine if a patient is experiencing heart-related discomfort, possibly avoiding unnecessary admission to the hospital.

Merit Health Wesley is also the only hospital in the Hattiesburg area accredited for heart failure care. To achieve these accreditations, the hospital has demonstrated expertise in the following areas:
  • Emergency department integration with emergency medical services
  • Emergency assessment of patients with symptoms of acute decompensated heart failure
  • Risk stratification of the heart failure patient
  • Treatment for patients presenting to the emergency department in heart failure
  • Heart failure discharge criteria from the emergency department
  • Observation stay or inpatient stay, heart failure patient education in the emergency department
  • Observation and inpatient unit personnel, competencies, and training
  • Organizational structure and commitment standards
  • Heart failure community outreach
In addition, Merit Health Wesley is a recognized by the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association as an Advanced Primary Stroke Center and Get With the Guidelines — Heart Failure Gold Plus Quality Achievement Award recipient.

“These achievements illustrate our commitment to providing that distinct care and help us measure our success in meeting internationally-respected guidelines,” said Neuendorf.

What is Interventional cardiology?
The American College of Physicians recognizes Interventional Cardiology as advanced training in cardiovascular disease and focuses on the invasive management of heart disease. Interventional cardiologists must complete an additional year of training beyond what is required for cardiologists. Interventional cardiologists are trained in managing ischemic heart disease, valve disease, and congenital heart abnormalities.

For patients, this means that not only is there no transition of care from a traditional cardiologist to one who can complete needed procedures, such as stents or valve repair, but because timing is important when working with the heart, it could mean the difference between life and death or keeping and losing a limb. An interventional cardiologist is able to locate a potential problem during a patient’s clinic visit, and, if needed, only minutes later, be ready to perform a life-saving procedure.

Heart care services
Interventional cardiology opens the door for providing patients with more services. The team tackles everything from peripheral artery disease to cardiovascular surgery and more.

Then and now
What began as a small, South Mississippi medical facility in March of 1900 with less than 40 beds, has grown alongside the Hattiesburg community to what is now Merit Health Wesley — a 211-bed facility offering services from emergency medicine and rehabilitation to bariatric weight-loss surgery and senior behavioral health.

Now, its Heart Care team has grown, too. In January of this year, Merit Health Medical Group and HeartSouth, PLLC announced that their teams had merged to grow patient services. F. Alan Covin, M.D., FACC; Susan Gentry, FNP-C; and Cindy Lick, ACNP officially came on staff at Merit Health Medical Group.

“Our team has worked closely with these providers for years, and we recognize the high quality care they provide to their patients,” said Neuendorf. “With nearly 60 years of combined experience, we’re happy to welcome this trio to our staff and look forward to continuing to increase what we’re able to offer our patients.”

So, this Heart Month, take time to think about who you’ll trust with your heart, so that if you need it, you’ll already know what your heart’s telling you.

For more information, visit
To schedule an appointment, call Merit Health Medical Group at 601-261-5700.

Meet the Team

Merit Health Wesley’s Heart Care team is comprised of three interventional cardiologists, a cardiovascular surgeon, and four nurse practitioners, each with more than ten years’ experience. To be precise, the team has 197 years of combined experience between them, so patients can rest assured that they are in capable hands. The physicians also boast board certifications in a breadth of specialty areas, meaning that they have chosen to undergo a rigorous process of testing and peer evaluation to demonstrate their exceptional expertise and commitment to quality.

F. Alan Covin, M.D., FACC
Interventional Cardiologist

Medical School:
The University of South Alabama College of Medicine

The University of South Alabama College of Medicine

Board Certifications:
American Board of Internal Medicine Cardiology
American Board of Internal Medicine
Cardiovascular Diseases
American Board of Internal Medicine  
Nuclear Cardiology

Level II CTA Certified

Viral Lathia, M.D.
Interventional Cardiologist

Medical School:
Dr. D.Y. Patil Medical College

Residency & Fellowship:
Louisiana State University School of Medicine

Board Certifications:
American Board of Internal Medicine
American Board of Internal Medicine Cardiovascular Disease,
Certification Board of Cardiovascular Computed Tomography
Certification Board of Nuclear Cardiology
Registered Physician of Vascular Interpretation

Daniel Skarzynski, M.D.
Interventional Cardiologist

Medical Education:
Feinberg School of Medicine,
Northwestern University

Residency & Fellowship:
Feinburg School of Medicine

Board Certifications:
American Board of Internal Medicine
American Board of Internal Medicine Cardiovascular Disease
National Board of Medical Examiners

Fidel Sendra, M.D.
Cardiovascular Surgeon

Medical School:
New York University

The University of South Alabama Medical Center

Board Certifications:
American Board of Thoracic Surgery
National Board of Medical Examiners


  • Evaluation, prevention, management, and comprehensive treatment of complex vascular conditions such as…
    • Peripheral arterial disease (PAD)
    • Heart disease
    • Deep vein thrombosis
    • Pulmonary embolism
    • Chronic venous insufficiency

  • Management of chronic heart diseases

  • Advanced coronary interventions
  • Medical Device management
  • Heart Murmur treatment
  • Limb-saving procedures

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February 03, 2018
Keywords:  Feature Story


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