Blog
Feb 26
Provider Spotlight: Dr. Rocco Grella

Rocco Grella, MD, FACC, is the Medical Director of Interventional Cardiology and a member of Saratoga Hospital Medical Group – Cardiology. He performs both emergency and elective interventional cardiac procedures. Dr. Grella comes to Saratoga Hospital from Arnot Health, where he provided interventional cardiology services at three hospitals: Arnot Ogden Medical Center in Elmira, Ira Davenport Memorial Hospital in Bath, and St. Joseph’s Hospital in Elmira. He also is on the medical faculty of Columbia University in New York City and Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine in Erie, Pennsylvania. Dr. Grella and his wife have four children, the oldest is 26 and the youngest is in high school, and a yellow mixed Labrador named Sandy.

Q.   Why did you choose a career in medicine, and why this specialty? 
A.   Our family doctor, when I was a child, was pretty amazing. He was kind, personable, as busy as could be, but provided excellent care and always made time for you. He impressed me, and when it came time to choose my own future, I realized I wanted to emulate him. 

Once I arrived in medical school, I was marveled by the physiology of the heart. Every organ is important, but the heart has the remarkable capacity to adjust to physiological changes and life situations. It’s an accommodating, dynamic organ that beats every moment of your life. I initially planned to go into cardiac surgery, but then I realized that interventional cardiology offers the least invasive ways to make repairs to the heart. It’s remarkable that we live in a time when we can take care of people with heart disease with a catheter and have them back to normal activity in a week or two. 

Q.   What quality or area of expertise most sets you apart in your work?  
A.   I came here to Saratoga Hospital to set up our ST elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) program, also known as our emergency interventional cardiology program. The STEMI is the deadliest type of heart attack, caused by a blockage of blood flow to the heart that requires timely treatment. To save a life, it’s critical to restore blood flow as quickly as possible, either by mechanically opeDr. Grellaning the blocked vessel or by providing clot-busting medication. As they say, time is muscle when it comes to your heart, and this program enables our interventional cardiologists to quickly respond in these life-and-death situations. 

Having this program here, available 24/7, has made a big difference in people’s lives in our community and the quality of their lives through recovery and beyond. It has gained award-winning recognition. Combined with our affiliation with the nationally recognized cardiac program at Albany Medical Center, our patients are receiving advanced, expert, comprehensive cardiac care. I could not be more proud than to have played a part in all this.
 
Q.   What is the personal or professional philosophy that most guides your work?
A.   My sense of responsibility is to focus on where the need is. In smaller communities outside of “big city medicine” there is a great need for timely cardiac care. I believe that’s not only possible, but necessary. 
 
The evolution of programs like ours in a community setting often took time and effort with the belief that certain procedures could only be done at a university setting because that’s where all the equipment is located. But a growing number of people in the industry began to agree that if you have good, qualified people to get it done, you can take care of a heart attack patient in a community hospital.
 
We have to bring programs like these into the community setting because there is no good alternative to this super time-sensitive problem. Cancer surgery can be done today or tomorrow, it won’t make a difference, but a heart attack can’t wait. This was my impetus to take this position, and we’ve put together a great team that is really changing the outcomes and lives of so many different people.  

Q.   What helpful words of advice or tips would you most like to share with existing or potential patients of your specialty? 
A.   From a cardiac standpoint, the best thing is to listen to your body and take care of it. Sometimes people ignore the signs or go into a state of denial about chest pain they experience. When they finally decide to come in, and it turns out to have been a heart attack, the damage is done. You can never go back. 

I find that most people with developing heart conditions know something is wrong, even die-hards who won’t come in. Don’t ignore that feeling. If you have discomfort across your chest that comes with exertion or is spontaneous, and if it’s there for five or 10 minutes, you can’t take the risk of brushing it off. Call 911. If it turns out not to be a heart attack, that’s okay, that’s why we’re here. But if it is a heart attack, your quick action could save your life. 

Q.   What might patients be surprised to learn about you? 
A.   Well, I was born on the Fourth of July, but it was in Italy, so there were no fireworks that day. We moved to the United States when I was 5 years old. I came from a poor farming community and sometimes wonder what path I would have taken if we hadn’t moved here. As soon as I could, when I was 18, I applied for citizenship.
 
The process to obtain my naturalization papers was really amazing. The testing, the oral exam about American history, all of it. I was very proud to become a citizen. This is clearly the land of opportunity. If you work hard, you’re going to do well. For me it was a touching, amazing moment when I was first able to say “I’m an American citizen.” And, of course, I have fireworks on my birthday, now.

The American Heart Association has good information on how to recognize a heart attack here. Saratoga Hospital Medical Group – Cardiology has two convenient locations, one in Saratoga Springs and the other in Malta. Learn more about Dr. Grella and how to contact him here


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