Philanthropy at the "Heart" of Progress in Cardiovascular Care
Thomas Smallwood understands the power of philanthropy to transform the health of patients and families in Wisconsin. For decades, as executor of the Milwaukee-based Evan and Marion Helfaer Foundation, he has supported initiatives and programs at the Medical College of Wisconsin and Froedtert Hospital that have improved patient care and advanced medical discovery.
In 2011 and 2018, Smallwood designated gifts from the Helfaer Foundation totaling $1 million to expand the Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin Adult Heart Transplant Program into a world-class destination for adults with advanced heart failure. Funds from the grant were designated for MCW’s department of medicine to recruit medical and surgical specialists in advanced heart failure and heart transplant to grow the program to become a leader regionally and nationally.
“It’s incredibly important to have top talent here in the region to care for patients and conduct research,” Smallwood says. “Cardiovascular diseases are a leading cause of death in Wisconsin, and in many cases, early diagnosis and treatment is all that stands between a chance for a long and healthy life and a preventable tragedy.”
With support from the Helfaer Foundation, MCW and Froedtert Hospital have significantly moved the heart program forward by recruiting a team of pioneering cardiovascular and cardiothoracic surgical specialists – thus positioning Milwaukee and the state of Wisconsin as a hub for some of the top such talent in the country.
Transplant surgeons Lyle Joyce MD, PhD (right), and his son, David Joyce, MD (left), were recruited in early 2017 to bolster the heart transplant and heart surgery programs.
“Tom’s enthusiasm for growing our program has been critical to our recent growth,” notes Roy Silverstein, MD, the Linda and John Mellowes Professor and chair of the MCW department of medicine. “The gifts from the Helfaer Foundation have helped elevate our program and attracted some eminent candidates to join us.”
Mitchell Saltzberg, MD, professor of medicine (division of cardiology) was one of the first faculty recruitments to the program. Dr. Saltzberg is a nationally-known expert in advanced heart failure and transplant, and brought a large portfolio of sponsored clinical trials to MCW.
In March 2017, Paul Pearson, MD, PhD, a Mayo-trained heart surgeon, joined MCW as professor of surgery and chief of the department’s division of cardiothoracic surgery. Since coming onboard, he has been a catalyst for expanding the program’s team of transplant surgeons. Dr. Pearson was instrumental in recruiting Lyle Joyce, MD, PhD, an international expert in transplant and heart failure, and his son, David Joyce, MD, a rising star in the same field.
In July 2018, Jorge Saucedo, MD, MBA, joined MCW as professor of medicine, chief of the division of cardiovascular medicine and an MCW Eminent Scholar. “Dr. Saucedeo is an accomplished and highly productive cardiologist,” Dr. Silverstein shares.
Support from the Helfaer Foundation dates back to 1969, when Evan Helfaer made grants in urological research to MCW’s predecessor institution, the Marquette University School of Medicine. The Helfaer Foundation has provided contributions to MCW in each succeeding decade.
Smallwood also has played a substantial leadership role at both MCW and Froedtert Hospital, where he served on both boards and has been deeply involved in establishing sound business practices aimed at ensuring patients and families with the highest quality care.
“I’ve been fortunate to carry out the Helfaers’ vision for a thriving community, and I’m pleased to be able to invest in improving the healthcare I believe our community deserves. I’m looking forward to seeing Dr. Silverstein and his team achieve new heights in cardiovascular care,” Smallwood adds.