Famed Heart Surgeon Takes on a $2.8 Million Mission: Texas Medical Center Chief Jumps Into the Gala World
Since taking the helm of the Texas Medical Center four years ago, Dr. Robert Robbins has worn many hats on behalf of the institutions in the vast TMC family. But this Saturday he steps into what is surely his most unexpected role. The internationally acclaimed cardiac surgeon will don his tuxedo and head to the Hilton-Americas Houston where he will chair the American Heart Association‘s Heart Ball.
Gala chair? Perhaps not so surprising when you consider his long-standing relationship with AHA. His first grant as a young researcher came from the heart association a quarter century ago. “The typical story is that if you’re a cardiac surgeon you get your first grant, usually $10,000, from Heart,” he said a week before the gala. “They do a really good job of giving young investigators awards.”
That early association launched a lifelong involvement that has stretched from his tenure at Stanford University School of Medicine to Houston where he serves as a member of the local chapter board and as president of the AHA Southwestern Affiliate Board. He held that same position with the Western States Affiliate while at Stanford where he chaired the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery and was founding director of the Stanford Cardiovascular Institute.
“It’s an incredible organization. They do great work,” Robbins said of the AHA. “It’s been a great, great organization for me to be involved in.” So, when asked to chair the AHA black-tie affair with a fundraising goal of $2.8 million, the largest in the event’s 34-year history, he was game.
In fact, so in tune is Robbins with the AHA mission and platform that the Texas Medical Center, under his leadership, will formally announce an investment in the non-profit’s heart health programs at the upcoming gala.
Those funds, according to AHA Houston executive director Yara El-Sayed, “will support research, education and advocacy efforts here in the Houston community, specifically through our Houston Heart Walk and Go Red For Women campaigns.”
Noting that the TMC charter focuses on patient care, education and research to improve the health of Houstonians and populations worldwide, Robbins explained, “I think this is really a good investment to raise awareness and do anything we can to help the AHA or any institution or any individual lower their risks for cardiovascular disease. It’s still the number one killer.”
Acknowledging the shared commitment of AHA and TMC, Charles Flournoy, AHA Houston board chairman, noted, “The impact the American Heart Association has in Houston and in communities across the country would not be possible without the support of leaders and institutions like Dr. Robbins and the Texas Medical Center.”
Earlier in the morning of this interview, Robbins had joined Dr. Mehmet Oz and renowned cardiovascular surgeon and bioengineer Dr. Billy Cohn at the Texas Two Step: Save A Life Campaign at the Health Museum. The hands-only CPR training session was just one of numerous events that Robbins participates in to promote not only heart health but also the Texas Medical Center.
During Super Bowl festivities a week earlier, Robbins and the TMC partnered with the NFL for the 1st and Future start-up competition based on three areas of research relating to athletes.
“We co-sponsored with the NFL and, of course, I shamelessly promoted the TMC,” he said. “It’s an incredible story that I go all over the world telling just to raise the awareness.”
That story includes the fact that TMC is the largest medical center in the world with 50 million developed square feet, 106,000 employees, 9,200 patient beds, the largest clinical concentration in the world and plans for a 30-acre innovation campus known as Texas Medical Center 3.
“We’ve got the greatest story to tell in the world,” he said.