Johnson City Medical Center | News Article

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Johnson City Medical Center establishes region’s first comprehensive stroke center, certified by The Joint Commission

Shown are just a few of the many members of the stroke network from across the region. The goal of the network is for all Mountain States hospitals to comply with a set of strict protocols when patients come in with stroke symptoms in order to provide the safest, most efficient care possible.


JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. – Every 40 seconds. That’s how frequently someone in the U.S. has a stroke, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and our region of Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia has one of the highest rates of stroke in the country.


When you’re having a stroke, quick access to the best stroke treatment can mean the difference between life and death. According to the American Heart Association, people with hemorrhagic stroke are more likely to survive if they are treated at a comprehensive stroke center – and that resource is now available for the first time to residents to the region.


On Tuesday, Jan. 9, Johnson City Medical Center announced it has earned The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval® and the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s Heart-Check Mark for Advanced Certification for Comprehensive Stroke Stroke doctors and their patients (from left to right): Kimberly Coates, Dr. Brian Mason, Dr. Chip Massey, Ashley Hale.Centers. This designation is the highest level of stroke certification available, earned by meeting stringent standards for treatment of the most complex ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke cases. 


With this certification, Johnson City Medical Center joins an elite group of about 150 healthcare organizations in the nation that are able to provide advanced, highly-specialized stroke care. Johnson City Medical Center is one of only eight hospitals in Tennessee and the only hospital between Knoxville, Tennessee, and Charlottesville, Virginia, along the I-81 corridor with comprehensive stroke center certification.  


To be eligible, hospitals must demonstrate compliance with stroke-related standards as a primary stroke center and meet additional requirements, including those related to advanced imaging capabilities, 24/7 availability of specialized treatments, and providing staff with the unique education and competencies to care for complex stroke patients.  


“We are so proud to have earned this certification from The Joint Commission,” said Melody Trimble, chief executive officer of Mountain States’ Washington County, Tennessee, hospitals. “This took a tremendous amount of teamwork, and I want to thank everyone for all their hard work in making this happen. This certification is a team effort involving our emergency staff, neurosurgeons, neurologists, vascular surgeons, cardiovascular surgeons, interventional radiologists, nursing teams, ICU teams, family medicine, internal medicine, quality teams and all of our community hospitals. At Johnson City Medical Center, we are all committed to providing the best possible care to our patients.”


A large part of Johnson City Medical Center earning this certification is the expert team on staff at the hospital who are specially trained to spot and respond quickly to a stroke, and can provide fast lifesaving surgical treatment. Dr. Brian Mason and Dr. Chip Massey can treat both types of stroke – hemorrhagic (bleeding) and ischemic (clotting) – with advanced, minimally invasive surgical techniques that can stop a stroke in progress. 


Dr. Mason was recruited to join the team at Johnson City Medical Center in 2015. He successfully established two comprehensive stroke centers in Florida and brought with him expertise in high acuity stroke care that very few physicians in the country can replicate. Dr. Massey has been with Johnson City Medical Center for nearly 20 years, and has been performing neuroendovascular surgery since 2005.


Together, the two physicians practice among the elite providers in the nation, and their skills are consistent with those of providers in the nation’s leading teaching hospitals. 


“The doctors at Johnson City Medical Center saved my life,” said Kimberly Coates. “When I had my stroke, I remember having the worst headache of my life, and then boom, it happened. Dr. Mason performed a procedure that put a coil in my brain and opened up the vessel so the blood could flow again. I can’t even imagine what would have happened to me if this procedure hadn’t been available.” 


A stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is blocked or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts. In either case, parts of the brain become damaged or die. A stroke can cause lasting brain damage, long-term disability, or even death.


According to the CDC, strokes are the fifth-leading cause of death in the United States and a major cause of serious disability for adults. About 795,000 Americans have a stroke each year.


“Achieving designation as a comprehensive stroke center is exceedingly difficult, and it requires a great deal of time and hard work on the part of our staff as well as a significant financial investment. But the lives saved make this a worthy investment,” said Alan Levine, chief executive officer of Mountain States. “We no longer have to transfer people to Knoxville or Vanderbilt; we have the highest level of care available here. Being a comprehensive stroke center represents the presence of an entire continuum of care, and every aspect of the hospital and community-based providers linking up with protocols and standards of care that give patients the best chance of achieving a successful outcome after a stroke.” 


Mountain States’ network of stroke centers includes Indian Path Medical Center and Johnston Memorial Hospital – which are certified primary stroke centers – and Franklin Woods Community Hospital and Sycamore Shoals Hospital, which are certified as acute stroke ready. By linking community hospitals and using standardized, evidenced-based imaging, treatment and transfer protocols, Mountain States is able to create a complete continuum of care for stroke patients. 


The goal of the stroke network is that all Mountain States hospitals comply with a set of strict protocols when patients come in with stroke symptoms. Time is of the essence when someone is having a stroke, and when patients receive care based on the evidence-based protocols, the right care is delivered more quickly, saving lives and reducing complications after stroke. 


If you think you’re having a stroke, recognize the signs FAST: 


F – Face drooping

A – Arm weakness

S – Speech difficulty

T – Time to call 911 


If these symptoms are present, call 911 immediately.


You can learn more about Johnson City Medical Center’s stroke center at