By Will Sansom
Evie Winkler was 1 week old when she underwent her first open-heart surgery. Before birth, Evie was diagnosed with only one ventricle in her heart, and her parents, Jennie and Zack Winkler of Midland, weighed the alternatives.
After visiting multiple locations for care and speaking to numerous skilled physicians during the pregnancy, they chose to entrust Evie’s life to S. Adil Husain, M.D., pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon at UT Health San Antonio.
Evie was born Oct. 11, 2016, at University Hospital, UT Health San Antonio’s clinical partner and teaching facility. The first of multiple surgeries to repair her heart took place Oct. 18, 2016.
The Winkler family, including Evie, traveled to San Antonio recently to reunite with Dr. Husain, professor and chief of the Division of Pediatric Cardiothoracic Surgery. They also were honored guests at the 2017 President’s Gala hosted by President William L. Henrich, M.D., MACP. More than 1,500 attended the Sept. 23 event at the Grand Hyatt.
Each year, the President’s Gala raises significant funding from community members to support the university’s clinical, research and education missions. Past galas have established funds and endowments in trauma care, cancer research, community service programs, education and scholarships, and, in 2016, Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.
This year’s gala established the Lacie and Joe Gorder President’s Endowment in Heart Disease Research. Joe Gorder is chairman, president and CEO of Valero Energy Corp. He and his wife, Lacie Gorder, are interested in helping advance heart disease research across the life span, from infants to seniors. Honorary chairs of the President’s Gala were Bill and Margie Klesse. Mr. Klesse is the former chairman, president and CEO of Valero Energy Corp.
At the gala, Dr. Henrich announced a personal pledge made by the Gorders to match the funds raised at the gala, bringing the Gorder endowment to more than $1 million at its inception. The endowment will help to find new therapies and cures, shape prevention protocols and ensure access to breakthrough health care.
Heart disease remains the No. 1 killer of adults in Texas, and each year nearly 4,000 Texas children are born with a congenital heart defect.
“While the impact of heart disease is staggering, advances in research are improving the prevention, early detection and treatment of heart disease in adults and helping more infants with congenital heart disease, like Evie, to survive to adulthood,” Dr. Henrich said.
Despite these successes, the work is not over, Dr. Henrich said.
“In the last decade, progress in research has produced new therapies, and this has led, for the first time in the modern era, to a reduction in overall mortality and morbidity from heart disease,” he said. “But this is not the time to do a victory lap.”
Cardiovascular disease accounted for more than 800,000 deaths last year in the U.S. and is still the leading cause of death among Americans, responsible for 1 in every 3 deaths. More than 90 million Americans are living with some form of cardiovascular disease, and 2,200 Americans die every day from the disease. The cost of heart disease approached $350 billion in the U.S. last year. By 2030, the costs of global cardiovascular disease will be more than $1 trillion.
In addition to establishing the Lacie and Joe Gorder President’s Endowment in Heart Disease Research, Dr. Henrich announced a special patient support fund. The Lacie and Joe Gorder Pediatric Heart Care and Family Support Fund will provide pediatric patients and their families needed assistance with travel and other family support.