Million Dollar Hearts

December 21, 2015

When longtime Saint John’s Health Center Foundation trustee Michael M. Minchin, Jr. feels grateful, he does more than just say “Thanks.” After Mike was told he needed heart valve surgery, he researched surgeons in the area and chose John M. Robertson, MD, Saint John’s director of thoracic and cardiovascular surgery. The surgery was a success and Mike decided he wanted to give back to Saint John’s. “My heart is with Saint John’s in two ways,” he says. “The Health Center fixed my heart and gave me all these additional healthy years, and now I will do whatever I can to support the expansion of cardiac care at the hospital.”

Mike’s first step: He called Irene Bristol, RN, director of development for the Foundation with an idea for a ladder of matching pledges for the cardiac care committee, which is actively raising funds for the Saint John’s TAVR (transcatheter aortic valve replacement) and stroke center units. “Mike has been such a great supporter of Saint John’s,” Irene says. “So I knew he could get an innovative fundraiser going. We decided to start by raising $100,000.” Two weeks later, a donor who had heard cardiologist Peter C.D. Pelikan, MD, speak about what Saint John’s Health Center was doing with TAVR and the cardio committee called and asked: “Can you use $500,000?” And the Million Dollar Heart Club was born.

Soon the fund had reached $900,000; Mike donated the rest and said, “OK, I’m closing your Million Dollar Club.” Before long, however, another Foundation trustee donated $100,000 to start the second Million Dollar Heart Club.

“Now we’re purchasing equipment for the TAVR procedure room,” Irene says, “and working toward our goal of becoming the Providence Health & Services, Southern California hub for all TAVR procedures.” TAVR is much less invasive than open-heart surgery and is gaining favor with patients who might not be candidates for traditional heart surgery. Patients also experience a faster recovery. “As more people learn about the new equipment and what it can do, we gain momentum,” Irene adds. “It’s very exciting.”

The Foundation is grateful to the Million Dollar Heart Club donors, and looking forward to offering state-of-the-art cardiovascular care to more Southern Californians than ever before.

Members of the first club (closed):

  • Michael W. Croft
  • Michael M. Minchin, Jr.
  • Thomas Wertheimer
  • Anonymous donor

Members of the current club (open):

  • Robert J. Lowe