A $7.5 million gift to the University of Michigan will advance research and discovery toward curing aortic disease, and support creation of a new hybrid operating room at the U-M Frankel Cardiovascular Center.
With their gift, Robert and Ann Aikens, of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., will propel an evolution in heart care. The latest advancements in cardiovascular treatment include hybrid procedures in which catheter-based interventions, simultaneous imaging and open chest surgeries are performed in the same operating room.
The newest hybrid surgical suite, which is double the size of a regular OR, is the third for the U-M and merges the radiological and surgical techniques that make advanced hybrid procedures possible.
"In order to offer this safe and more effective option, as well as attract industry partners, we must invest in facilities that provide flexible and complex operating space," says cardiologist Kim Eagle, M.D., a director of the Cardiovascular Center and the Albion Walter Hewlett Professor of Internal Medicine. "It is an essential component of any state-of-the-art cardiovascular center."
The University of Michigan Health System will match support from the Aikens family for the capital project with preliminary plans for opening in 2015.
Hybrid operating rooms enable the minimally invasive repair of heart valves and treatment of arrhythmias, aortic aneurysms and coronary arteries. Patients, especially the elderly, recover quicker from less invasive procedures.
U-M interventional cardiologists, surgeons, radiologists and echocardiologists are national leaders in performing a transcatheter technique that opens the door to aortic valve replacement for patients who cannot tolerate open heart surgery.
"The newest hybrid OR will serve as an anchoring element in our pursuit of the most innovative cardiovascular techniques," says interventional cardiologist Stanley J. Chetcuti, M.D., director of the U-M's cardiac catheterization labs and the Eric J. Topol Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine. "We are pursuing these innovations to bring cures closer to patients in a culture of collaboration and caring."
"Technology is changing how we think about and treat health problems," says cardiac surgeon G. Michael Deeb, M.D., director of U-M's Multidisciplinary Aortic Clinic and the Herbert Sloan Collegiate Professor of Surgery at the U-M Medical School.
"For example if we have a patient with a large aneurysm and cardiovascular disease, we would like to treat those problems simultaneously in order to decrease time on the heart-lung machine. In a hybrid operating room we can perform angioplasty and stent the lesion via transcatheter techniques and then proceed with the open surgery."
In addition to being a destination for complex aortic care, the U-M has scientists who are coordinating research to discover more answers and treatment breakthroughs for aortic disease.
In 1996, the U-M launched the International Registry for Acute Aortic Dissection, and scientists are exploring a radical approach to understanding the genetic drivers that make some patients more vulnerable to aortic complications.
"The Aikens investment will magnify our potential to impact aortic disease," Eagle says.
Robert Aikens is chairman of Robert B. Aikens & Associates L.L.C., a commercial real estate development and management firm based in suburban Detroit, and a 1954 alumnus of the Law School. In 2002, Ann Aikens earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design.
"Bob and Ann are exemplary university citizens," says Jerry May, U-M vice president for development. "They have enriched arts and law education at the U-M, and their continued philanthropy will improve the health of U-M patients."
The Robert B. Aikens Commons was named in recognition of the Aikens' gifts to the Law School, and the couple has provided generous support to the School of Art & Design and the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics. In 2010, Ann Aikens received the David B. Hermelin Award for Fundraising Volunteer Leadership, the University's highest recognition for volunteer leaders.
The gift is part of the University's recently launched $4 billion Victors for Michigan campaign; the health system comprises one quarter of the campaign, with a goal to raise $1 billion for medical research, patient care and education.