UF Health introduces new era of cardiovascular medicine in Central Florida

Cardiothoracic surgeons Drs. R. Duane Cook, Robert J. Richardson and Karen S. Thompson — formerly of Leesburg Ocala Heart Institute — joined UF Health Physicians April 1. University of Florida Health welcomes the cardiovascular and/or thoracic surgeons of Leesburg Ocala Heart Institute as the newest members of UF Health Physicians. Drs. R. Duane Cook, Robert J. Richardson and Karen S. Thompson  — the region’s most experienced cardiothoracic surgery specialists — have performed more than 16,000 open heart surgery procedures in the last 22 years.

“The addition of this renowned practice to UF Health Physicians represents UF Health’s ongoing commitment to enhance the availability of comprehensive medical care offerings for Central Florida residents,” said Bruce Mast, M.D., associate dean of regional programs, chief medical officer for UF Health Regional Physicians and chief of the UF College of Medicine’s division of plastic and reconstructive surgery. “I could not be more pleased that Leesburg Ocala Heart Institute is now UF Health Cardiothoracic Surgery – Leesburg.”

Although this team of dedicated physicians has a new practice name, their unwavering commitment to their patients remains the same.

“It is exhilarating to continue to work with patients in Lake and Sumter counties,” said Richardson, who has been part of the local community since 1998. “The resources and expertise of UF Health combined with the dedication and precision of the open heart team at UF Health Leesburg Hospital has the potential to improve upon what is already a top cardiac care program in the state.”

Richardson received his training in cardiovascular and thoracic surgery at Baylor College of Medicine Affiliated Hospitals, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, and Denver Children’s Hospital. He is board-certified by the American Board of Thoracic Surgery and is also a fellow of the American College of Surgeons.

Thompson, a Chicago native, said she was drawn to the Leesburg area in 2018 by its cardiac surgery opportunities and new and emerging technologies.

“I was excited that the hospital here offers minimally invasive procedures such as transcatheter aortic valve replacement, commonly referred to as TAVR,” she said.

As the only female cardiovascular and thoracic surgeon in Lake and Sumter counties and one of only a handful of female cardiothoracic surgeons in the U.S., Thompson is a pioneer in her field. She   graduated with honors from the Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine and completed her fellowship at the University of Mississippi. She is board-certified by the American Board of Thoracic Surgery and holds memberships in the Society of Thoracic Surgeons, Southern Thoracic Surgical Association and the Florida Medical Association.

As with Richardson, Cook has been performing open heart surgeries in Leesburg since 1998.

“I was honored to be part of the team that brought state-of-the-art heart surgery close to home for the people in Lake, Sumter and Marion counties,” he said. “Now, we can work together with the UF College of Medicine, which is nationally recognized in the fields of cardiovascular research and care, to provide the most advanced options to heart and vascular patients.”

Cook was deployed in Saudi Arabia with the 31st Combat Support Hospital during Operation Desert Storm and completed his cardiovascular and thoracic surgery residency at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. in 1994. He later earned an MBA from Carnegie Mellon University in 2018. Cook is board-certified by the American Board of Surgery and the American Board of Thoracic Surgery, and he is a fellow of the American College of Surgeons.

UF Health Cardiothoracic Surgery – Leesburg is located at 700 Doctors Court, Leesburg, FL 34748. Call 352-787-9838 to schedule an appointment.

About UF Health

UF Health is a world-class academic health center that combines leading-edge research at campuses around Florida with outstanding clinical care at a network of hospitals around the state. The flagship is UF Health Shands Hospital, ranked the No. 1 hospital in Florida in the 2020-21 U.S. News & World Report Best Hospitals survey, with nine adult and three pediatric specialties in the top 50 in the nation, more than any other hospital in Florida.

With main campuses in Gainesville and Jacksonville as well as satellite sites in Central Florida and several other locations, UF Health provides exemplary health care to patients across the third-most populous state in the nation. UF Health consists of six health colleges, nine research centers and institutes,10 hospitals — including two teaching hospitals and five specialty hospitals — and a host of physician medical practices and outpatient services.

The backbone of UF Health is a talented and dedicated workforce of more than 33,000 people who provide lifesaving care and research breakthroughs for more than 3 million patients who come to UF Health each year from around the U.S. and more than 30 countries.

UF Health is committed to improving lives and health through a variety of community-based programs and activities. As part of the state’s “safety-net’’ hospital system, caring for people who have little or no medical coverage, UF Health provided more than $254.9 million in unsupported charity care and social responsibility across its Gainesville and Jacksonville campuses in fiscal year 2019. Annually, UF Health contributes more than $4.6 billion to Florida’s overall economy.

Our mission is to promote health through outstanding and high-quality patient care, innovative and rigorous education in the health professions and biomedical sciences, and high-impact research across the spectrum of basic, translational and clinical investigation. Visit www.UFHealth.org to learn more.

About UF Health Central Florida

UF Health Central Florida, formerly known as Central Florida Health and acquired by UF Health in 2020, is an award-winning, not-for-profit health care system and the largest, most comprehensive provider of health care services in the region. We care for patients in Lake, Sumter, and Marion counties through inpatient acute hospital services at UF Health The Villages® Hospital and UF Health Leesburg Hospital, inpatient rehabilitation services at UF Health The Villages® Rehabilitation Hospital, adult inpatient psychiatric services at the UF Health Leesburg Hospital Senior Behavioral Health Center and diagnostic laboratory services at several locations. As a premier health care provider, UF Health Central Florida takes pride in providing progressive, innovative technology, along with building strong relationships with patients, families, physicians and residents of the communities it serves. To learn more, visit www.CentralFloridaHealth.org.

Media contact: Andrea Sellers at asellers@centflhealth.org or 352-323-5527.