Recognizing that heart disease is one of the leading killers in the Albanian community, Jacobi Medical Center is launching an Albanian Cardiovascular Clinic (ACC) to aid the large population in the borough.
In September, Jacobi will open the ACC, which will cater to the Albanian populations in the Norwood, Belmont and Pelham Parkway sections of the Bronx. According to a 2019 study, chronic heart disease accounted for 29.4% of total deaths in Albania.
Dr. Eleonora Gashi-Baraliu, director of Cardiovascular Consultative Services and the Quality for Cardiac Intensive Care Unit at Jacobi, will lead the ACC. Gashi-Baraliu, who has been at Jacobi since 2018, is of Albanian descent and understands the importance of the clinic to her community.
The doctor told the Bronx Times that many Albanians eat a lot of red meat, smoke cigarettes and often neglect seeing a doctor on a regular basis.
“As an immigrant who trained in Manhattan for general and interventional cardiology, my eye was always towards the Albanian community in the Bronx,” she said. “Serendipitously, I ended up at Jacobi where I find tremendous joy coming to work every day while working with and serving a very multinational community.
“Personally, it is only natural that I continue to expand and provide services to the Albanian community in the ACC while maintaining my responsibilities and care for all patients that come through our open doors at Jacobi.”
Currently, many members of the Albanian community in the Bronx go to the Illyria Family Practice at Jacobi Medical Center. When people from Kosovo fled the country in 1999 due to the war and settled in the Bronx, they joined an already rising Albanian population. In an effort to accommodate them, especially those who did not speak English, Dr. Alan Ross of Jacobi Medical Center launched the local practice.
Building off the success of Illyria, Gashi-Baraliu hopes Albanian residents come to the ACC to get their cardiovascular needs taken care of. She said many Albanians often make excuses about seeing a doctor, but is hopeful this will help change their thinking.
“When this opportunity came up, I said here’s a chance to do something,” Gashi-Baraliu said.
The ACC will educate people how to take care of their cardiovascular health and offer cardiovascular consultations, echocardiograms, holter monitoring, treadmill exercise stress tests, nuclear stress tests, stress echo, coronary CT angiography, cardiac MRIs, diagnostic angiograms and percutaneous coronary interventions.
Most of the patients will be referrals from Illyria Clinic, but there will be some by word of mouth. The Illyria Clinic says 20-30 patients per week are in need of cardiology services.
According to the doctor, the center will be important because it allows for “patients to have the cultural comfort and eliminates communication as a barrier to health care disparity, allows patients to become more proactive in their own care and come to the doctor by themselves.”
Gashi-Baraliu is confident Albanian residents will come to the clinic as they already seek help at the general cardiology clinics at the hospital.
“A lot of parents do not want to come since they feel they are burdening their children in taking off work to come to doctor’s offices, this way if they have someone that can communicate in their native tongue — they will be more willing to attend to their health issues,” she said. “I try to change one person at a time. The point is to also conduct educational sessions for the community in emphasizing healthier lifestyle habits and potentially change the course of disease burden.”
This story was updated at 1 p.m. on May 27.
Reach Jason Cohen at email@example.com or (718) 260-4598. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes