Helfaer Foundation gift will be used to launch adult heart transplant program
June 01, 2012 College News - With a $500,000 gift from the Evan and Marion Helfaer Foundation, the Medical College of Wisconsin and Froedtert Hospital are embarking on an initiative to develop a premier adult heart transplant program. The gift will support startup expenses and recruitment packages necessary to build an outstanding team of faculty physicians charged with expanding the partners’ heart transplant capabilities.
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women. According to the American Heart Association, more than 2,200 Americans die each day from cardiovascular disease. For patients experiencing heart failure, transplant is sometimes the only remaining option to save their lives.
“We think that it is important to give the people in our community an opportunity to have the best heart care available, and when you have a successful program, it attracts people not only from southeastern Wisconsin but across the region,” said Thomas L. Smallwood, Administrator for the Helfaer Foundation and Emeritus Trustee of the Medical College. “I feel that Froedtert is one of the best hospitals in America, and I think it becomes an even better hospital when you have a first class cancer center and the best transplant center in the state. That is what will happen, and why we are giving the money to the Medical College.”
The Evan and Marion Helfaer Foundation has been a major supporter of the Froedtert & The Medical College of Wisconsin Clinical Cancer Center and its new gift will help the Medical College and Froedtert achieve their goal of becoming a Medicare-certified heart transplant program. To earn this designation, Medical College physicians will need to perform approximately 50 heart transplants over a two-year span, but during this period, Medicare reimbursement for each procedure is relatively limited. As a result, Froedtert and the College will need to fund much or most of the costs associated with these transplants.
“In addition to offsetting clinical care costs at Froedtert and the Medical College, funds from the Helfaer Foundation will assist in the development of a strong, interdisciplinary heart transplant team, support the recruitment and transplantation procedures of appropriate patients, and establish the basis for a world-class program based at Froedtert & The Medical College of Wisconsin,” said College President and CEO John R. Raymond, Sr., MD. “This award is a remarkable demonstration of support for our joint efforts to build on existing strengths and extend our work to adults with the same degree of excellence and recognition that College physicians have achieved working with Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.”
For years, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin has been a regional and national referral center for pediatric heart transplantation performed by Medical College of Wisconsin specialists. The pediatric cardiac surgery program ranks as the sixth busiest in the United States and one of the best in the world. The Medical College can draw on this experience to develop a similar level of expertise in the treatment of adult congestive heart failure and adult heart transplants.
Also contributing to the program’s potential is the College’s expansive research resources. The Medical College’s Cardiovascular Center serves as the focal point for tens of millions of dollars of competitive funding for research on coronary artery disease, heart muscle function, cellular physiology of cardiac muscle, the cardiac conduction system, heart development and heart failure.
Additionally, the College and Froedtert have experience collaborating on a top-tier transplant program: Their kidney transplant program consistently ranks in the top 10 percent nationally.
“The outstanding collaboration between Froedtert Health and the Medical College of Wisconsin empowers us to deliver the highest quality care to our patients,” said William Petasnick, CEO of Froedtert Health. “By developing a premier adult heart transplant program, we will provide greater hope to patients whose lives are threatened by cardiovascular disease.”
Evan Helfaer was the principal owner of Lakeside Laboratories, a Milwaukee pharmaceutical manufacturing firm. The foundation that bears his name was founded in 1974, the year of his death, and supports higher education, health care and cultural programs.