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The Magic of Three

Aim high. Follow your dreams. Never stop learning.

They were just a couple kids born in Poland and growing up in Africa, but phrases like these took Adam and Tom far beyond. The encouragement came from their beloved parents -- both mathematicians.

Today these “kids” are Dr. Adam Stys and his younger brother Dr. Tom Stys, world- renowned interventional cardiologists who practice at Sanford Heart Sioux Falls. And there’s yet a third family member with a passion for heart care: Dr. Maria Stys, cardiologist who married Adam in 1992.

Greatness knows no boundaries

From early on, Adam and Tom followed a similar path. When choosing which university to attend, for example, both returned to Warsaw. And both pursued degrees in medicine.

“Tom followed me,” says Adam, laughing. “He’s been following me every step of the way since kindergarten.”

But not always at the same pace. Maria tells a story that reflects Adam’s penchant for progress. The two met in medical school where she, too, was an aspiring cardiologist. They graduated on a Friday, married on Saturday and moved to the United States on Sunday. The next day Adam began his residency training.

“That’s typical of our fast-paced life, but we love it,” says Maria. “We feel blessed to be here living the American dream.”

Their drive for excellence and their heart for humanity made Sanford a perfect fit:

    * Maria joined Sioux Valley, now Sanford in 1997, now practicing as a cardiologist with nuclear medicine expertise.
    * Adam joined in 1998. He currently heads the newly formed cardiology fellowship program -- a partnership with the University of South Dakota Medical School.
    * Tom joined in 2004. He now serves as Medical Director of Sanford Cardiology and Director of the Cath Lab.

Maria and Adam Stys temporarily left Sanford in 2001 to pursue additional training in New York. They returned in 2006. Today Adam and Tom each hold five board certifications including interventional cardiology by the American Board of Internal Medicine.

Dream team benefits patients

Adam and Tom perform most surgeries together, capitalizing on their close bond as brothers and their mutual respect as professionals. Says Tom: “It’s amazing to perform a very complex procedure and have your brother right there next to you. He knows you the best and you trust him the most.”

The collaboration thrives on their desire to achieve -- and their dissatisfaction with the status quo. “Our goal is to never stop learning and never stop moving forward,” says Adam. “When we advance our skills, patients benefit greatly in terms of procedures, success and safety.”

The brothers have gained global recognition for innovative techniques in highly complex, unique procedures. Many have been selected as “case of the week” by Transcatheter Cardiovascular Therapeutics (TCT), the premier educational resource for the worldwide interventional cardiology and endovascular medicine community.

Among their notable innovations:

    * The development of an arterial heart scan technique that requires far less contrast dye. This translates to greater safety for patients and lower costs for health care systems. “Our findings have been published and we expect this will become the preferred technique around the world,” says Adam.
    * The safe, successful use of “the world’s smallest heart pump” to perform a highly complex heart procedure. Inserted through a catheter, the pump travels to the heart’s pumping chamber, taking over the work of the heart during surgery. Patients appreciate the minimally invasive approach and the absence of the traditional heart/lung machine. “With this miniscule heart pump, we could resolve this particular heart problem and make the patient feel better,” says Tom. “That’s the beauty of practicing medicine. It’s a science, but it has that special touch of serving another human being.”
Posted Date: January 2012