A Heart-Felt Gift Fills a Vital Need

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On Nov. 29, 2013, heart specialists at the Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Heart & Vascular Center were the first in Missouri to implant a subcutaneous implantable cardioverter defibrillator (S-ICD) into a patient. Unlike the traditional ICD used to help treat arrhythmias such as tachycardia, the S-ICD does not place wires inside the heart or blood vessels. Gifts make research possible that leads to treatment breakthroughs like this.

In 1947, Harold Guller started a successful business and was soon joined by his 24-year-old brother, Sidney, because they “saw needs and filled them.” Today, 67 years later, Essex Industries continues its philosophy of finding needs and offering solutions.

 With a strong family history of heart disease, Keith Guller and Sidney Guller are supporting new advances in heart care.

Now Sidney and his family members, including his nephew, Keith Guller, are filling another need with a $500,000 gift to establish The Guller Family Endowed Research Fund for the Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Heart & Vascular Center.

This fund is designed to assist the Heart & Vascular Center in attracting and retaining the best and brightest physicians in heart care and enable them to put research ideas and discoveries on the fast-track to improve heart treatments.

The Guller family discovered the need for this support after talking with Doug Mann, MD, cardiologist-in-chief at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and director of the Heart & Vascular Center.

“I’m most impressed by Dr. Mann’s desire to improve heart treatments,” Sidney says. “Dr. Mann explained to us that the hospital has many talented doctors in heart care who have exciting ideas but they need financial support to develop their ideas. When we heard this, we realized we found a need and could help.”

He continues: “The most important thing we hope to accomplish is to encourage young doctors to work on their new ideas and earmark money for testing equipment and developing new treatments.”

The need for innovative heart care hits close to home with the Guller family. Several family members have been treated for heart disease, including Sidney and Keith.

Keith first discovered he had heart issues when he passed out at The Muny in St. Louis in 2009. He was just 56 years old. Through a cardiac catheterization, doctors at Barnes-Jewish Hospital found a blockage in Keith’s arteries. Keith had immediate open heart surgery and would eventually have a pacemaker inserted to maintain his heart rhythm.

“The most important thing was that I was able to dance with my daughter at her wedding two months later,” Keith says.

Keith’s experience ignited a strong desire to build awareness of heart disease. So he and his wife, Cindi, established The Guller Family Lectureship in Preventative Cardiology Fund at the Foundation. This fund supports educational initiatives within cardiology. This fund is in addition to the new Guller Family Endowed Research Fund.

“To know exceptional, world-class care is available right here at Barnes-Jewish Hospital is comforting,” Keith says. “The hospital gave life back to me and I want others to have the same opportunity I did. Right now, Barnes-Jewish Hospital is creating an exceptional center for heart and vascular care and we’re honored to play a role in making that happen through the Guller Family Fund. My Uncle Arthur received excellent care that enabled him to live another five years. My cousin suffered from arrhythmia and has now recovered after treatment. We have skin in the game but we want to help all families. Sidney is the cornerstone of this gift and we invite everyone to join us in improving heart care through this fund.”

Following his solution-based business philosophy, Sidney is determined to fill the need for better heart care. “Through this Guller Family Fund, we hope to see Dr. Mann’s vision fulfilled of building the best team of doctors who can provide the best heart care,” he says. “We have the opportunity to encourage young physicians to develop new procedures and new ways of treating heart disease. These efforts will keep Barnes-Jewish Hospital at the forefront of cardiology and vascular problems.”

If you would like to be part of improving heart care, please support The Guller Family Endowed Research Fund for the Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Heart & Vascular Center. Make a gift online or call 314-286-0600.

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