Celebrate 25 years of Heart


DP Suresh, M.D., remembers his first Greater Cincinnati Heart Ball in the mid-‘90s. After all, the young doctor had just moved to town receiving a fellowship through the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine to pursue research in his field of interventional cardiology.

“I was lucky enough to get my first fellowship grant from the American Heart Association (AHA) to fund my research,” Suresh says. “I know at my first Heart Ball we had about 300 people. It’s now close to 1,500.”

Nearly 25 years later, Suresh is the co-chair of the annual Heart Ball, as the Greater Cincinnati event celebrates its silver anniversary, growing over the years to become the single biggest one-night gala for any charity in the Tri-State. Suresh, Medical Director, Heart & Vascular at St. Elizabeth Healthcare in Northern Kentucky, is the first cardiologist to ever co-chair the annual fundraising event.

“It is a great honor and it’s something I’ve really wanted to do over the years,” Suresh says. “I benefit from all the wonderful technology and advancements that the American Heart Association has helped provide. This is a way of giving back. Ever since my fellowship, I have enjoyed working in this community to explain what is on the horizon for heart and stroke care and what are the various things we have accomplished.”

Suresh is a past board president of the Greater Cincinnati American Heart Association. He is currently on the board for the American Heart Association’s Great Rivers Affiliate, the five-state region that includes Ohio and Kentucky.

The 25th annual Greater Cincinnati Heart Ball is February 24 at the Duke Energy Convention Center. The black-tie event will be a night of glitz and glamour, with gourmet dining and dancing, interactive auctions and a Young Professionals After Party.

To celebrate the 25th anniversary, the event will honor all past Heart Ball chairs, Heart of the City Awardees, Kaplan Award recipients and Open Your Heart chairs.

The event celebrates the American Heart Association’s lifesaving work for Greater Cincinnati families, a mission that has impacted thousands of lives in the region. Contributions support cardiovascular research and professional and community education and advocacy efforts.

Joining Suresh as co-chair for the event is his wife Subhadra, and Garren Colvin, President/CEO St. Elizabeth Healthcare and his wife, Susan. St Elizabeth Healthcare and TriHealth are the event’s presenting sponsors.

Cincinnati has for many years been among the top-ten Heart Ball events in the country, surpassing what is raised in many larger cities. Mark Clement, President/CEO of TriHealth, believes the healthy heart effort resonates with the public.

“Improving heart health is a cause that touches everyone in Greater Cincinnati. Each of us knows someone who has benefitted from lifesaving care, or new discoveries that have improved care for people with heart conditions,” Clement says. “The Heart Ball is a celebration that brings together people from all walks of life to rally around the American Heart Association’s lifesaving work. Through TriHealth’s support of the Heart Ball, we are able to help further the American Heart Association’s work throughout the region and across the country.”

Suresh says the goal for this year’s event is to raise $2 million, up from last year’s goal of $1.75 million. This year’s goal would double what the Heart Ball raised just seven years ago.

“It is an audacious goal,” Suresh says. “The only areas that have raised that much at a Heart Ball are Silicon Valley and Dallas. I feel we can meet the goal. People support this because they know heart disease is still the number one cause of death in the country and stroke is number five. Our Cincinnati American Heart Association staff is amazing getting out to the community, meeting people, talking to them.”


Paying It Forward

Also helping the fundraising effort is David Armstrong, president of Thomas More College, co-chair of the Open Your Heart Campaign, which raises additional donations to coincide with the Heart Ball and oversees the silent auction. Armstrong, a Cleveland native, says he’s been amazed at the giving spirit in Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky in the five years he has been in the region.

“This is a very faith-filled community of hard-working people,” Armstrong says. “Out of all the places I’ve been this is the most generous area I’ve seen with people giving their time, talent and treasure. I also think people appreciate the work here from our great medical entities. They choose to be innovative, they choose to make partnerships.”

Armstrong recently discovered the region’s generosity in a very personal way.  Heart Ball Executive Leadership Team member, Bob Hoffer of DBL Law, had a heart imaging test known as a coronary CTA scan (computed tomography angiogram), a noninvasive test that helps determine if fatty deposits have built up in arteries to restrict blood flow to the heart. Hoffer discovered he did have a serious blockage treated with stents that saved his life. Hoffer decided to pay it forward to five friends.

Armstrong remembers the call: “One day Bob calls me and says, ‘I’m very thankful this got caught, so I’m going to pay for five friends to get this scan done and you are one of them.’ I told him I’ll get it done but I wouldn’t take his money.”

But after a day of thinking about the offer, Armstrong realized he probably would procrastinate about getting the scan. He knew that accepting Hoffer’s offer would get him to take action. “I called him back and said, ‘Bob, I will take your money and in return I will pay for three of my employees to get the test.’ That afternoon he had a check on my desk.”

And that check may have saved Armstrong’s life. After receiving the test at St. Elizabeth, Armstrong found he did have a blockage issue. After further tests, doctors decided it could be managed through weight loss, diet and exercise. Armstrong says he has since lost 40 pounds and things are looking good.

“I’m still working on it, but I have the tools to do better and feel better,” he says.

After that experience, Armstrong said it was a natural to step up to chair the Open Your Heart campaign. Armstrong is also proud of the partnerships Thomas More has developed with St. Elizabeth. “They sponsor our nursing program and our sports training. We educate their RNs and hopefully will add a masters of science in nursing.”


New Kiosks Introduce CPR Techniques

Last year saw the introduction in Greater Cincinnati of two hands-only CPR demo kiosks designed to overcome any reluctance people may have to getting CPR training. Thanks to the support of the BFF Fund of the Greater Cincinnati Foundation, a kiosk was placed at the Cincinnati Museum Center and thanks to Anthem, another was placed at the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky airport. Between the two locations, the CPR kiosks engaged 6,111 people who interacted with them last quarter. Of those participants 2,126 took the final test to ensure their CPR performance accuracy.

The Cincinnati Heart Association says those numbers achieved the second highest visitor and conversion rate across all seven kiosks in the five-state affiliate region including Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Delaware.

Meanwhile, for those on the front lines of fighting heart disease, the task can be daunting. Heart disease remains the number one killer in the United States with one in three deaths from cardiovascular disease. Stroke is the number five killer. The American Heart Association has set a goal of reducing cardiovascular disease by 20 percent by 2020. In Northern Kentucky, Suresh says St. Elizabeth has a goal of a 20 percent reduction by 2025 for residents in that region. 


For tickets and information about the Heart Ball, visit www.cincinnatiheartball.heart.org.

The Greater Cincinnati affiliate of the American Heart Association is located at 5211 Madison Road, Cincinnati, OH 45227. For more information contact Alicia Lehnert at 513.699.4222 or by email at alicia.lehnert@heart.org.



The Heart of the City

The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association will honor Rachel and Dr. James Votruba with the Heart of the City Award at the 2018 Heart Ball for their philanthropic contributions and generosity in the community.

Dr. Votruba is President Emeritus and Professor of Educational Leadership at Northern Kentucky University where he served as President from 1997-2012. During his tenure as president, the Board of Regents was cited as one of the highest performing governing boards in the country and the university’s strategic planning process was the subject of a Harvard higher education case study.

Dr. Votruba co-chaired Vision 2015 which developed a comprehensive strategic plan for the northern Kentucky region. He serves on a variety of boards including the Ohio National Mutual Holding Company, the St. Elizabeth Healthcare Board of Trustees (Chair), the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, and he co-chairs the Northern Kentucky Task Force on Kindergarten Readiness.

Rachel Votruba plays an active leadership role in several community-based non-profit organizations. Rachel Votruba spent her career working with youth in the capacity of teaching, counseling and student affairs. She is especially focused on high-risk youth. She has played an active leadership role in a variety of non-profits including the Brighton Center, Children’s Law Center, Women’s Crisis Center, Interact for Health, Every Child Succeeds, Carnegie Center for Visual and Performing Arts and numerous committees at Northern Kentucky University.



Two-and-a-Half Decades of Heart Balls = Heart Health Advances

Yes, 25 years of fundraising to fight heart disease and stroke has made a difference.

“Twenty five years ago, when somebody had a heart attack, they’d show up at the hospital and probably stay a week. The only really approved drug was aspirin,” says DP Suresh, Director, Heart & Vascular Institute, St. Elizabeth Healthcare, who came to town two decades ago as a fellow at UC Health. “Back then, we didn’t really have stents or balloons. We didn’t have any of the diagnostic things we take for granted today. People would die of standard heart attacks all the time. We didn’t really know the physiology of heart disease.”

Research from literally all over the world helped with the scientific breakthroughs that have led to improvements in emergency care and new treatments that have become routine for heart attacks and stroke.

“A lot of basic work translated into the CCU – the coronary care unit – where you have a group of people only involved with heart disease,” Suresh says. “We found how to use blood thinners in heart attacks. We found we could use balloons and catheters to go directly into the heart and open the artery. If a person comes in with a heart attack anywhere in Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky within a few hours, I open the artery and treat it. It’s as if a heart attack never happened.”

Minimally invasive procedures have led to overnight or outpatient treatments where previously a person might stay for days. Digital and battery technology has reduced the size and increased the durability of pacemakers.

Yet, treatment can only go so far in reducing deaths from heart disease and stroke. Prevention remains the key to reaching the American Heart Association’s 2020 goal to improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20 percent and to reduce deaths from cardiovascular disease and stroke by 20 percent.

Not all is going well. Recent startling rises in obesity rates, which lead to diabetes, hypertension and heart disease, indicate there is much to be done on the education front. While there has been a steady decline in deaths from heart disease for 40 years, recent studies indicate that trend may have hit a wall.

On the prevention front, the American Heart Association is investing millions in what is known as precision medicine – understanding precise biological and social factors that can be used to develop preventive treatments unique for individuals based on their environment, lifestyle and genetic makeup. The education effort is also being doubled when it comes to getting people to exercise, stop smoking and eat a healthy diet.

Going forward, Suresh remains proud of continuing treatment breakthroughs, such as mobile EKGs becoming standard for EMTs in Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati.

“If someone is having a heart attack, the EKG is hooked up and I can look at an app, confirm it is a heart attack, and have the team active before the patient arrives at the hospital. That saves lives.”