How can I get in touch with the support group?” Dr. F. Tom Dory asked shortly after beginning Phase 2 of the Cardiac Rehabilitation program at Shawnee Mission Health. Much to his surprise, one did not exist at the time.

To improve his health after going through bypass surgery following recent stent placements, Dory visited Cardiac Rehab three times a week to better understand his condition and start exercising safely under the careful watch of nurses and certified exercise physiologists.

Fast forward six months, and Cardiovascular Pulmonary Rehab manager Libby Davis asked Dory to facilitate a new support group following his completion of the program. “After a heart condition or life-changing heart event, patients are confronted with so many life changes,” said Davis. “In these situations, the best people for our patients to talk to are those who have gone through the same thing.”

Now in full swing, the support groups have been meeting on the first Friday of every month since February 2016, providing patients with a space to share their emotions and concerns in addition to their weekly exercises.

An extension of the Shawnee Mission Heart and Vascular Center, the Cardiac Rehab program consists of two phases, beginning with patient intake and concluding with maintenance a er patients have completed 12 weeks of exercise and education related to their heart conditions.

“Here at Shawnee Mission Health, we value caring for the whole person, not just physical health,” said Davis. “The new support groups strive to meet patients’ spiritual and emotional needs as they adjust to changing circumstances.”

To comply with busy schedules and the time-intensive cardiac program, the support groups take place during normal exercise hours. Every first Friday of the month, patients can choose to wrap up their exercises 20-30 minutes early to attend one of seven group sessions throughout the day, all led by Dory.

Dory, a retired pastor, college professor, high school music accompanist and support director, and pastoral counselor, is experienced in helping people relate to one another. He does so in a way that makes each person feel

As a heart patient himself, having gone through surgery and three stent placements, Dory knows first-hand about life alterations that come with a major heart condition. In response, he has formed a curriculum of themes that align with what patients may be going through.

After welcoming patients at each group session, Dory guides conversations surrounding the meeting’s area of focus. Topics include first time reactions to cardiovascular disease, what support looks like, finding peace and contentment, common feelings, attitudes and what makes change so difficult.

Not only have these meetings created a network of support for over 40 patients, but also a mentorship program. While the groups mainly focus on Phase 2 patients who come to Cardiac Rehab three days a week for training, Phase 3 patients are also invited to attend group sessions to share their experiences with the program and battle with cardiovascular disease.

“Everyone needs support from others,” said Dory. “Our hope is that patients will find it here as we continue crossing hearts and sharing thoughts, fears and advice with one another.”

To learn more about the Shawnee Mission Heart and Vascular Center, including the Cardiac Rehab program, visit

Ashley Maska is a writer for Shawnee Mission Health.