Dr. Ross with event co-chairs
Dr. Heather Ross and event co-chairs Dr. Bernie Gosevitz and Anne-Marie Canning. (Photo: UHN/PMCC)

Explorer, traveller, musician, pioneer and life-saving doctor. The successes and achievements of Dr. Heather Ross offer much to celebrate.

Hosted by well-known Canadian sportscaster Brian Williams, and co-chaired by Anne-Marie Canning and Dr. Bernie Gosevitz, more than 350 guests gathered earlier this month to pay tribute to the remarkable career of Dr. Ross, who has dedicated her life to tackling the epidemic of heart failure.

"Above & Beyond: A Tribute to Dr. Heather Ross" was held in support of the Ted Rogers Centre for Heart Research at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre.

A team of cardiologists, primary care physicians, advanced care nurse specialists, pharmacists, dieticians, psychologists, physiotherapists, and information technology specialists have united at the Ted Rogers Centre for Heart Research to change how we manage heart failure. Their stated goal is to reduce re-hospitalizations for heart failure by 50 per cent by 2025.

"Thank you for believing in me and this bold vision," Dr. Ross told the audience. "I am incredibly grateful for the support and humbled that you are here, willing and engaged to make this possible.

"You have my promise. We will change the quality of lives and the outcomes of patients with heart failure."

Proceeds from the event, which grossed $8.1 million, will be used to support the development of novel digital health platforms that will improve the efficiency and quality of life for heart failure patients, individualize patient management, provide real‐time performance metrics, and enable transformative research through the emerging field of computational biomedicine.

"To improve the quality of life and survival of patients with heart failure, we must get better at predicting the risk more accurately and intervening much earlier," said Dr. Ross. "We believe we will predict the use of heart failure through harnessing big data. In essence, we're trying to find patterns in the chaos. We want to enable intervention and change before the disease actually takes hold."

Dr. Heather Ross, who was recently honoured at a Toronto General and Western Hospital Foundation gala evening, is known as the ‘Heart Doctor.’ (Video: UHN)

The evening included two special gift announcements from honorary co-chair Loretta Rogers and event co-chair Anne-Marie Canning.

A newly-established Ted Rogers Centre for Heart Research Chair will lead efforts to create a digital framework that will revolutionize care for heart failure patients. The Chair will be held by the Ted Rogers Centre for Heart Research Site Lead at University Health Network.

"To ensure that Heather can stay in Toronto and devote as much time as she feels necessary to further her research, her programs and her leadership in cardiac care, she will be the first holder of a new Chair funded by grants from the Rogers family in the amount of $5 million," said Loretta Rogers, philanthropist and widow of Ted Rogers, the Canadian broadcasting pioneer.

"Heather, we are all indebted to you."

A $1-million gift from Anne-Marie Canning will be used to support the Ted Rogers Centre for Heart Research Cardiovascular Biobank.

"The information we plan on using includes the data that is literally coming out of your pores – your DNA," Dr. Ross said. "This is part of our biobanking initiative to develop a better molecular and genetic-level understanding of the progression of cardiovascular diseases."

Guests were treated to a spectacular evening featuring the use of digital human holograms to bring special greetings from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Canadian astronaut Roberta Bondar, and legendary American television and radio host Larry King.

"It feels especially fitting to defy the limits of space and time to honour Dr. Ross, because Dr. Ross, you seem to do that every day," the Prime Minister said in his remarks. "With your cutting-edge research, your fearless expeditions to support heart health, and the endless energy you bring to every one of your patients, your work has saved countless lives and inspired even more.

"In every way, you test the limits of what one person with a very big heart can do."​

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