Meet Jim Walker, MD, the former professional baseball player who for the past 12 years has served as medical director of the Comprehensive Stroke Center and the Neuro Critical Care Unit at Ascension Via Christi St. Francis.
Dr. Walker is imminently qualified for both roles, having started a residency in neurosurgery and ultimately completing a residency in anesthesiology as well as completing fellowships in anesthesia critical care and neuro-critical care.
"Acute stroke care is a natural fit for my skill set," says Dr. Walker, who serves as the medical director for St. Francis' dedicated Neuro Critical Care Unit and the Comprehensive Stroke Center, which serves patients from throughout Kansas and northern Oklahoma. "You have to think and respond quickly in critical care situations and that is what my training has hard-wired me to do."
Dr. Walker's education, training and experience, together with his ability to collaborate and work well with others, are what have made him and the Comprehensive Stroke Center program so successful.
Although St. Francis is the state's only provider outside the Kansas City metro area staffed and equipped for around-the-clock interventional stroke care, Dr. Walker is committed to continuous improvement in its door-to-treatment times, which are consistently well below the national average.
"Time lost is brain lost, so the sooner we can identify the type of stroke and begin treatment, the better the outcome is likely to be," he says.
That's why Dr. Walker and other team members regularly devote time to community outreach education about the signs and symptoms of stroke and the importance of calling 9-1-1 for transport.
"Care starts the minute we receive notification from EMS of a stroke patient's pending arrival," says Howard Chang, MD, who as medical director of the St. Francis ER is a vital member of the Comprehensive Stroke Center team. "We begin collecting patient information and alerting the team so they can be in place and ready to begin treatment immediately. We are fortunate as an organization and community to have someone like Dr. Walker leading this vitally important program."
Dr. Walker grew up in Nickerson, Kansas. He earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Kansas, where he was a scholarship baseball player. In addition to having been an NCAA Div. I Academic All American, he also was an All American Pitcher and third-round draft pick by the Baltimore Orioles. He chose to give up playing minor league baseball and return to his home state, where he continues to make a major league difference in the lives of patients and their families.
"Every patient we can help get back to their lives is the most rewarding part of the job for me," says Dr. Walker, who in his free time enjoys the outdoors and sporting activities with his wife, Kaely, and their two children.