Save a Heart Foundation History
Save A Heart Foundation was established by Dr. Yzhar Charuzi in 1980 to fulfill a revolutionary concept: scientific research had long been the purview of academicians it was time to open it up to practicing physicians who wished to pursue it.
During the 1970’s Dr. Charuzi was on the full time Medical Staff at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Echocardiography, the first medical application of ultrasound was a new technology and as a consulting cardiologist, Dr. Charuzi was eager to study its potential. However, at that time attending physicians were restricted to working with laboratory animals and access to Cedars-Sinai’s echocardiography equipment, located in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit, was limited.
Increasingly frustrated with the forced exclusion from research opportunities, Dr. Charuzi and his colleague, eminent cardiologist Dr. William Ganz, took a step to challenge to the status quo. They would purchase an echo machine and conduct research on their own. It would prove to be a groundbreaking move that changed established procedures.
There were major hurdles to overcome. They not only had to fight the resistance of much of the medical community, they had to find the money to purchase the expensive equipment. Dr. James Forrester, Director of the CSMC Cardiovascular Institute who would become the project’s “spiritual advisor,” encouraged Dr. Charuzi to establish a foundation and pursue private funds. Colleagues and friends were eager to contribute their time and expertise. Drs. Clarence M. Agress and S. Rexford Kennamer raised funds for the specialized equipment.
Save A Heart Foundation was launched in 1980. Soon after its inauguration SAHF’s mission expanded to include research fellowship opportunities. The early fellowships went to doctors from the U.S., Japan, and Macau conducting Echocardiography research. By 1987, Israel had become the primary source of fellows. “We decided that by concentrating on Israeli physicians, we could contribute to Israel becoming a major regional cardiology.” Dr. Charuzi explained. The fellowship program’s structure was innovative. SAHF would oversee the fellows’ professional development from the selection process through training and up to the presentation of their research papers. Most visionary was the promise of an appropriate position in Israel’s medical community for the program’s graduates upon their return home.
SAHF fellows have pursued all areas of cardiology, stroke prevention and pediatric congenital heart disease. They have advanced research productivity and contributed to new technologies such as the development of a new laser catheter to open blocked heart arteries.
The foundation has also made profound contributions to Israeli cardiology. The graduate fellows returned home with vastly enhanced clinical skills having been exposed to state-of-the-art technologies. In 1993 Israel’s Ministry of Health created the country’s first nuclear cardiology unit under the leadership of a SAHF graduate; other alumni pioneered nuclear cardiology programs in Jerusalem and Haifa. SAHF fellows helped develop Israel’s nascent heart transplantation program; they were among the country’s first surgical cardiologists, electrophysiologists and pioneered the highly advanced technology of interventional cardiology. “Our fellows have brought advanced knowledge and experience to their institutions and communities,” says Dr. Charuzi. The alumni continue to network with their mentors, maintaining a continuous exchange of cardiology information.
Recent SAHF fellows have been training at the Keck School of Medicine of USC mentored by Uri Elkayam, MD, a world-renowned expert in heart failure and heart disease in pregnancy. Dr. Elkayam is a Professor of Medicine, Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Southern California.
As the organization continues to advance cutting-edge developments in cardiology, Dr. Charuzi points to the many sponsors, board members, mentors, staff, volunteers and friends to whom Save A Heart Foundation owes its existence. “It was a miracle that we were able to get off the ground at all,” he says. “I look forward to continuing the tradition of outstanding contributions to cardiovascular care.
Dr. Yzhar Charuzi
For Dr. Yzhar Charuzi, Founder and President of Save A Heart Foundation, the decision to be a cardiologist came out of the blue. “One night it occurred to me that cardiology was what I desired,” he says. “After that I got hooked on the heart.” His patients, colleagues and SAHF Research Fellows applaud that decision.
Born and raised in Tel-Aviv, Dr. Charuzi studied medicine at the Hebrew University Medical School in Jerusalem. He did his internship and residency in Internal Medicine, at Tel Hashomer Chaim Sheba Medical Center where he had exposure to advanced cardiology. At the same time he served in the Israeli Air Force medical corps and participated in the development of air evacuation systems.
An opportunity to do cardiac training and research, orchestrated by Dr. Ronald Berez, brought Dr. Charuzi to the U.S. He embarked on an extended fellowship that took him from USC to the University of Minnesota to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. After completing the fellowship, he joined the full-time staff at CS for five years. He then entered private practice and helped develop a Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation Protocol. He was also involved in the early development of Nuclear Cardiology and two dimensional Echocardiography at Cedars-Sinai. Along the way Dr. Charuzi was mentored by giants of cardiology: Drs. Oscar Magidson, Jesse Edwards, William Ganz and Jeremy Swan.
Save A Heart Foundation was born of Dr. Charuzi’s own experience when, at the conclusion of his fellowship, he looked for a suitable position in Israel. There were no procedures to help returning fellows find appropriate employment opportunities. Returning to the U.S. he set out to establish such a program, and in the process created an organization that would ultimately do far more; Save A Heart Foundation sponsors fellowships, provides physician mentors, monitors the fellows’ research productivity and works with Israeli medical centers that support the fellows’ study programs while securing positions for them in Israel.
In the 25 years since founding SAHF Dr. Charuzi has steered its growth and development. The organization has sponsored 37 fellows in cardiology and cardiac surgery. SAHF fellows were involved in state-of-the-art research at CS and upon return to Israel established subspecialties such as Nuclear Cardiology which was previously unavailable there. Aware of the strides being made in stroke prevention, Dr. Charuzi expanded SAHF’s mission and in 2004 the Foundation sponsored its first neurology fellow who is currently conducting research in that area.
Dr. Charuzi is presently a Consultant Cardiologist in private practice and Clinical Professor of Medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. His commitment to his patients and cutting edge medical care make him an extraordinary doctor. He was honored by the Israel Heart Society in 2000 for “Outstanding Contribution to Cardiology in Israel” and in 2001 was presented the “Humanitarian Award” by the American Red Magen David for Israel. Dr. Charuzi was the first to use hand-held computers in patient medical records at Cedars-Sinai. He visits Israel frequently to meet fellowship candidates, monitor the progress of SAHF graduates and confer with colleagues at the Israel Heart Society. He has contributed to numerous papers, book chapters and presentations and belongs to the American College of Cardiology, American Heart Society, Israel Medical Association, Los Angeles Cardiology Society and Los Angeles Society of Echocardiography.
Dr. Charuzi is an avid music enthusiast who conducts an opera club together with Esther (Esphira) Blaugrund. He loves to travel the world and often does so with his brother Ilan, a renowned general surgeon in Israel.