A history of bold innovation.
Charles L. Baird, Jr., M.D.
The history of the VCU Baird Vascular Institute – and the inspiration for our work in advancing vascular medicine – is rooted on the work of a pioneering cardiologist, Charles L. Baird, Jr., M.D.
In 1972, Dr. Baird, a graduate of VCU Medical School and a member of the staff at the Medical Center, decided to take a bold step to completely transform the way heart disease was diagnosed and treated. He was convinced that early diagnosis and treatment of heart disease could prevent needless suffering and save countless lives, and established the Virginia Heart Institute – now the VCU Baird Vascular Institute – to prove it.
Pioneering a new approach to diagnosis and treatment
At the time Dr. Baird established his clinic, the standard medical practice was to diagnose and treat coronary disease after patients had already suffered a heart attack, requiring patients to wait a year before undergoing a cardiac catheterization to find the blockages that caused it and determine if surgical treatment was possible. Baird firmly believed that it should be possible to diagnose and treat patients at risk at the first sign of symptoms – before the damage was done.
With the Virginia Heart Institute, he set out to prove that a relatively new and then largely experimental diagnostic procedure, coronary arteriography, was a safe method to identify high-risk coronary disease. If cardiac disease was diagnosed early, while a patient was stable, it could be managed medically and with lifestyle changes. Baird felt as long as a patient remained stable, he or she did not need to have angioplasty or surgery.
Baird modified the cardiac catheterization procedure, taking it from a three-day procedure to a three-hour one that could be performed on an outpatient basis. The Virginia Heart Institute became the first licensed outpatient hospital and the first freestanding cardiac catheterization laboratory in the United States. Over time, Baird’s early diagnosis approach to heart disease was adopted nationwide, saving billions of dollars and transforming and saving countless lives.
Building on a legacy
After Dr. Baird’s death in 2008, his widow, Jane B. Baird Hyde, donated the Virginia Heart Institute building and property to the VCU Health Medical Center.
At the time of the bequest, the VCU Health Medical Center’s Department of Radiology and Division of Vascular Surgery had already laid the groundwork for a freestanding outpatient vascular care clinic. Over the years, advances in medical imaging and minimally invasive surgery techniques had made it feasible to treat a wide array of vascular conditions on an outpatient basis, outside the hospital. The building and its convenient location were ideal for a facility intended to serve patients throughout Central Virginia, and the VCU Baird Vascular Institute held its grand opening in October 2011.
"You all have worked very hard at making BVI successful, and I appreciate it so much. Dr. Baird would be so proud!"
- Mrs. Baird Hyde
A Note From Mrs. Baird Hyde