Heart of the Matter

Surgery room with blue draping, surgeon and staff.

 A decade of excellence in cardiovascular care at UC San Diego Health.

Ten years later and the beat goes strong for Sulpizio Cardiovascular Center, the first academic-based facility in the region to combine all heart- and vascular-related services, programs and technology under one roof. Between the lives saved and advances made in cardiovascular care, it has been a decade of raising the bar for what has become one of the nation’s top cardiovascular centers.

As part of the Cardiovascular Institute at UC San Diego Health, Sulpizio Cardiovascular Center represents the merger of UC San Diego’s commitment to serving the region and the philanthropic vision of our community, thanks in large part to the partnership of Gaby and Rich Sulpizio and the Sulpizio family.

“We’re more pleased than we ever could have hoped to be when we see what Sulpizio Cardiovascular Center has become,” said Rich Sulpizio. “It gives us so much gratitude to know that what we helped launch has impacted so many lives. We have received many thank you notes from people who have either been patients themselves, or have had loved ones and family members cared for at the center and that is a constant reminder of why we chose to make this gift,” he added.

Such forward-thinking investment from the Sulpizio family kicked off a new era of philanthropy for UC San Diego Health and inspired many other families to join them in their giving. Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla explained, “At UC San Diego, we pride ourselves on being at the leading edge of innovation, and it is with the generous support of our community partners that we are able to transform health care. Sulpizio Cardiovascular Center is the model for the future of cardiovascular care—integrating our resources to better understand the needs of our patients, and implementing innovative treatments that drastically improve their quality of life.”

From the beginning, the vision for the center was clear: harness the vast resources, infrastructure and brain power at UC San Diego to create an integrated center that can address the complex needs of patients. “Sulpizio Cardiovascular Center is the heart of our Cardiovascular Institute and continues to be in the vanguard of cardiovascular care,” said Patty Maysent, CEO of UC San Diego Health.

“It stands apart because of the dedicated and talented team members whose many contributions to research, clinical care and education enable us to treat the most complex cardiovascular cases. And the proximity to resources at the Gary and Mary West Senior Emergency Care Unit as well as Altman Clinical and Translational Research Institute means patients have ready access to an expanded array of services.”

In the clinical realm, the goal was to leverage this highly effective and integrated model to innovate new treatments for patients and lead the advancement of the cardiovascular field. “At the time,” said Vice Chancellor for Health Sciences Dr. David Brenner, “we were envisioning the incredible impact a dedicated cardiovascular center could have on UC San Diego Health and UC San Diego Health Sciences. We knew that by investing in the center, we would effectively be accelerating innovative research and discovery and, at the same time, positioning ourselves to be a national leader in cardiovascular patient care.”

Some of the cardiovascular innovations UC San Diego Health has led include performing the county’s first FDA-approved carotid stent procedure to prevent stroke, innovating the use of lead-extraction surgery to replace the thin wiring of heart devices such as pacemakers or implantable defibrillators, and pioneering pulmonary thromboendarterectomy surgical procedures to remove deadly clots from the lungs and restore blood flow.

Man in white doctor's coat.
Dr. Michael Madani, executive director of surgery for the Cardiovascular Institute.

Today, the center’s leadership is eager to see where the future will take Sulpizio Cardiovascular Center. Dr. Michael Madani, executive director of surgery for the Cardiovascular Institute, already sees signs of big things on the horizon. “Sulpizio Cardiovascular Center and the Cardiovascular Institute now have multiple units across the county, a kind of ubiquity in San Diego that was something we were always hoping for but not something we could expect until it became a reality. Having our protocols practiced in so many places means that patients can have access to our care at clinics close to home, and if they have really complex needs, they can come to La Jolla for additional services,” said Madani. “What Rich and Gaby Sulpizio have done goes beyond what meets the eye. They have given the San Diego community a premier cardiovascular center so that no San Diegan need leave the comfort of their city for cardiovascular care,” he added.

Male doctor in a white doctor's coat with arms folded.
Dr. Ehtisham Mahmud, executive director of medicine for the Cardiovascular Institute.

Dr. Ehtisham Mahmud, executive director of medicine for the Cardiovascular Institute, is also excited for the future. “We have been one of the top cardiovascular centers in the past decade,  and over the next 5–10 years we see ourselves in the top five as a referral center for the country and the world. Diseases that were not treatable just a few years ago now are. In the next decade, we plan on expanding the excellence available here so that new technologies and techniques become synonymous with Sulpizio Cardiovascular Center and the Cardiovascular Institute,” said Mahmud. He continued, “We are a national and international referral hub for complex cardiovascular care, number one in the county and 23rd in the nation for cardiology and cardiac surgery. The Sulpizios made that possible.”

Sulpizio Cardiovascular Center is a reality because of the transformational gift and vision of philanthropists like Gaby and Rich Sulpizio. And through the dedicated commitment of its physician-scientists and the spirit of its trainees who learn to provide world-class cardiovascular medicine, this year’s milestone marks a solid foundation for advanced cardiovascular care in the next 10 years and beyond.