Cleveland Clinic surgeon’s mission to end racial disparities in treating vascular disease

Black History Month

Jay Joshua Anderson, a Michigan native, was in Cleveland for a cousin’s graduation back in 2019, when he says something felt off.

“Walking through one of the beautiful parks down in Cleveland and I started to feel funny and it didn’t get any better, it started getting progressively worse.”

Anderson, 48, is an engineer, Iraqi war Army veteran, and says he was physically fit and a healthy eater. He thought the symptoms of indigestion would eventually disappear….they did not.

“…so I ended up calling 911. They took me to the hospital. The situation got worse, and I found out I had an aortic dissection.”

Aortic Dissection…a condition that occurs when an injury to the innermost layer of the aorta allows blood to flow between layers of the aortic wall…forcing the layers apart, often resulting in stroke…even death.

Anderson got to the clinic just in time and while there, he would first meet Doctor Lee Kirksey, a vascular surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic.

Dr. Kirksey is a native Ohioan, born and raised near Alliance.

He went to undergrad medical school at the Ohio State University, then doing his general surgery residences in Philadelphia then New York City.

His goal of becoming a surgeon, set at a young age.

Kirksey said,  “As I was growing up, a played a lot of sports and had some sports injuries and I had, in particular, an orthopedic surgeon and physical therapists that really made an impression upon me about how healthcare providers can actually change a person’s life.”

And now, the husband and father is changing lives and fighting for patient’s he’s never even met.

As part of the cardiovascular coalition, he along with several other surgeons recently called for lawmakers in our nation’s capitol to support P.A.D., or peripheral artery disease legislation; seeking to reduce amputations stemming from vascular disease.

…and close the racial disparities gap by increasing screening and education.

The pandemic, Dr. Kirksey says, making his mission that much harder.

“We’ve not been able to get out as readily as we usually are in getting into the community and really evangelizing about healthcare and the role that it plays.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 34.2 million Americans have diabetes and 88 million Americans are pre-diabetic.

-PAD is responsible for > 80% of nontraumatic lower limb amputations in the United States each year

-Early PAD screening has proven to reduce the probability of an amputation

-PAD-related amputations occur more frequently among minority communities.

-Black Americans with diabetes are up to four times more likely to undergo amputation as a result of PAD compared to white Americans.

“…and it’s largely because of some of the habits, whether it’s our diet, high cholesterol, high fat, high salt. Whether it’s because of smoking,” says Dr. Kirksey.

Jay Joshua Anderson admits to ignoring signs of trouble and will soon be entering a health study to determine if his condition is genetic.

But he says he owns his life to Doctor Kirksey, whose ongoing mission is to inform health care professionals and the public about P.A.D., overall vascular health and the importance of early detection.

“…all I can say is thank you. I mean, he is absolutely amazing.”

Dr. Kirksey adds, “If there’s a silver lining within this cloud of the pandemic it’s been that we’ve been able to re-create what healthcare should look like and find alternative ways in engaging with the community.”

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