October 1, 2011

Cover Story

Healthcare Heroes

With unwavering courage and compassion, the 2011 Healthcare Heroes are imp...Read More

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Healthcare Heroes


Dianne Lewis, Heather Stewart

October 1, 2011

With unwavering courage and compassion, the 2011 Healthcare Heroes are improving the health and lives of many throughout Utah and the world. From brilliant doctors to comforting volunteers, each Healthcare Hero exemplifies a devotion to bringing health and hope to our lives. Individually they are visionaries and innovators; they direct programs that help children with major illnesses; they offer comfort in our darkest hours. Collectively they embody the best traditions in medicine. Join Utah Business as we give thanks the 2011 Healthcare Heroes.


Dr. Balamurali K. Ambati

  • Associate Professor and Director of Corneal Research, Moran Eye Center, University of Utah

At age 4, Dr. Balamurali Ambati spent three months in a hospital. Seeing the dedication and skill of the doctors and nurses, along with his interest in biology, set him on a path toward medicine. Having been on the receiving end of good medical care, Ambati keeps people at the center of his work.

“In fact, the world owes you nothing,” Ambati says. “We are fortunate to be in this profession and in this country. The word doctor means one who teaches and one who makes things better. Never stop doing both, never stop making a difference.” Helping restore patients’ vision and making life-changing differences is what continues to drive Ambati to work hard.

Ambati personifies the hard-working, giving attitude he advocates. Since graduating from Mount Sinai’s medical school at age 17, Ambati has continued to push himself, earning a Ph.D. in cell biology and an MBA, as well as publishing a book and a residents’ manual. In addition to his position at the Moran Eye Center, Ambati is a trustee for the India Cultural Center in South Jordan, a member of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Utah, on the clinical education committee for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, and is a volunteer eye surgeon, traveling internationally with several organizations.


Dr. Blake G. Welling

  • Neurosurgeon, Ogden Regional Medical Center

Dr. Joseph E. Graham

  • Cardiovascular/Thoracic Surgery Specialist, Ogden Regional Medical Center

While most doctors use teamwork on a daily basis, Dr. Blake Welling and Dr. Joseph Graham have taken it to a whole new level. Welling was one of the first surgeons in Utah to offer anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF), a back surgery used to relieve severe to disabling pain in the lower back and leg because of degenerative disc disease. While the surgery is very effective, it has the major risk that surgery could damage the large blood vessels going to the legs.

To increase patient safety and good surgery outcomes, Welling approached Graham for help. As a vascular surgeon, Graham has the ability to safely move the blood vessels away from the spine so they don’t get nicked in surgery. Despite the extensive training and credentialing the two had to go through, the results are worth it. Together they’ve performed more than 200 ALIF surgeries, giving many patients more active, pain-free lives. The pair’s reputation has spread, and in the past several years they have performed more ALIF surgeries than any other surgeon in Utah.

Dr. R. Bart Johansen, FACEP

  • Emergency Medicine Medical Director, Jordan Valley Medical Center

Nearly every day, Dr. Bart Johansen changes someone’s life. As the emergency medicine medical director at Jordan Valley Medical Center, he must remain calm at the center of emotional and unpredictable situations. Recognizing the importance of emergency medical care, Johansen works hard to make sure he and his team give professional, humane treatment to everyone.

“Emergency departments have been and likely will always be America’s health and injury safety net for all members of our society,” Johansen says. “So we as a country must continue to ensure that talented professionals continue to be well trained and that funding is available to keep their doors open.”

Using his love of science to help people has driven Johansen’s work, from his medical degree from the University of Utah, to emergency physician, to emergency department director and chief of staff at Jordan Valley Hospital, and medical director of the South Jordan, West Jordan, and Bluffdale fire and paramedic services. The Utah Bureau of Emergency Medicine recognized Johansen’s extraordinary care when they named him Emergency Physician of the Year in 2011.

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