Stroke care leader leaves Sparks Health for NWA medical director job

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 494 views 

Dr. Margaret Tremwel, a recognized state and national leader in stroke care and one of the people instrumental in establishing a Fort Smith regional telemedicine network, has left Sparks Health System in Fort Smith to be the medical director of the stroke program at Fayetteville-based Washington Regional Medical System.

Tremwel’s departure was sudden and left officials with Sparks scrambling to maintain leadership and direction in a regional telemedicine network that as of late 2012 included 10 hospitals in western Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma.

According to an Oct. 1 e-mail from Sparks Chief Operating Office Jeremy Drinkwitz to members of the telemedicine network, Tremwel was set to remain with Sparks until Oct. 16.

“Many of you received telemedicine coverage through Dr. Tremwel and I regret to inform you that Sparks is unable to offer that service to you at this time. I know this is short notice. We had thought that we had until Oct 16th as Dr. Tremwel’s last day, however she informed us yesterday it was her last day which has caused us to scramble. Once again I apologize for this inconvenience,” Drinkwitz wrote in the e-mail.

Drinkwitz said in the e-mail he would contact each member of the network to determine “next steps” for the program.

When asked about Tremwel’s departure, Sparks issued this statement: “Sparks Health System is grateful for Dr. Margaret Tremwel’s many contributions toward improving stroke care and the stroke death rate in our area. Dr. Tremwel’s level of passion for her craft is widely respected. We are sad to see her go and wish her the best. Sparks still has two neurologists on staff who provide the same level of care using the same stroke care program protocols. Sparks remains a Primary Stroke Center and will continue seeking Comprehensive Stroke Center status.”

Tremwel was with Sparks more than 12 years, with her duties during that time including chief medical officer and chief qualify officer. Under Tremwel’s tenure, Sparks was one of the first 11 hospitals in the U.S. to be accredited as a primary stroke center. Their support of networked hospitals also improved the stroke-care status of the other hospitals.

Bill Bradley, president and CEO of Washington Regional, said in a statement that Tremwel’s sudden departure was the result of a desire to begin her work as soon as possible with the system’s Northwest Arkansas Neuroscience Institute.

“The timing of Dr. Tremwel’s decision was focused on the far-reaching developments within the Northwest Arkansas Neuroscience Institute, particularly the recent addition of endovascular neurosurgery capabilities that are only available in a few places nationally,” Bradley said. “Exciting new treatment options here, unique in Arkansas, and the opportunity to play an integral role in elevating stroke care to a new, noteworthy level were key in her decision to join the Washington Regional team.”

As a stroke neurologist and medical director of Washington Regional’s stroke program, Tremwel is tasked to obtain a “variety of certifications and accreditations” to be a Center of Excellence in Stroke Care, coordinate medical staff and nursing staff education relating to stroke care, and develop community outreach programs to educate the public about stroke care and support groups for patients and families dealing with stroke and recovery.