Left to right: Patrick M. McCarthy, MD, Neil G. Bluhm and Dean M. Harrison.
$25 Million Gift Supports Artificial Intelligence to Treat Heart Disease
Northwestern Medicine Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute, the top-ranked cardiovascular program in Illinois for the last 10 consecutive years, received a $25 million gift from the Bluhm Family Charitable Foundation, formed by Neil G. Bluhm, a prominent Chicago philanthropist and real estate developer.
The world-class cardiovascular program that bears Bluhm’s name is now accessible throughout the Northwestern Medicine health system, which includes Chicago and the surrounding communities. The gift will fund, in part, a first-of-its-kind center that utilizes artificial intelligence and machine learning to advance the study and treatment of cardiovascular disease.
“I’m incredibly gratified that an increasing number of people have access to the very best care,” said Bluhm, founder and president of JMB Realty Corporation. “My support of Northwestern’s cardiovascular program has always been about sparking transformation and creating one of the top programs in cardiac care in the nation.”
Bluhm’s support began in 2005, when he provided the initial gift that facilitated the recruitment of Patrick M. McCarthy, MD, executive director of the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute and Heller-Sacks professor of cardiothoracic surgery at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, and created the Northwestern Medicine Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute.
“Mr. Bluhm’s gifts have allowed us to rapidly improve our options for better and safer care for the many patients who face the life-threatening condition of heart disease,” Dr. McCarthy said. “On behalf of our team, we thank him for his trust, his philanthropy, and his unwavering belief that the burden of cardiovascular disease can be lessened through innovation, research and quality patient care.”
For Bluhm, watching his investment in Northwestern’s cardiovascular program grow has been one of the most gratifying experiences of his life.
“Dr. McCarthy and the entire team at Northwestern turned my investment into a reality where patients are receiving world-class care and researchers are innovating around heart and vascular disease treatments every day,” Bluhm said. “The success of this program has exceeded my high expectations, and I couldn’t be prouder to be making this additional gift to Northwestern Medicine.”
Dean M. Harrison, president and chief executive officer of Northwestern Memorial HealthCare, thanked Bluhm for his generosity and trust in the 1,800 physicians, nurses, researchers, administrators and staff who relentlessly pursue and sustain excellence at Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute.
“All of us at Northwestern Medicine are so grateful for the transformative gift from Neil and his family, and we will continue to strive toward the best possible results and safest, most novel treatments for all cardiovascular patients,” Harrison said.
Dr. McCarthy said that this most recent gift, in part, will help launch a new center focusing on harnessing the power of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to improve diagnosis, treatment and research for cardiovascular disease.
“Artificial intelligence is the next frontier in breakthrough medicine, and Northwestern Medicine is leading the way by incorporating this emerging technology throughout its cardiovascular programs,” said Dr. McCarthy. “Cardiovascular disease remains the number one killer of Americans. Artificial intelligence offers an abundance of new ways to research and treat this pernicious disease.”
Currently, Northwestern Medicine is working with four companies to explore new ways to apply AI to clinical cardiovascular care. Northwestern Memorial HealthCare is in a unique position to forge promising, leading-edge collaborations with these companies by leveraging the many strengths of Northwestern Memorial Hospital, an academic medical center that is the top-ranked hospital in Illinois; Northwestern University and the Feinberg School of Medicine; and Northwestern Medicine’s broad clinical network that now extends throughout the Chicago area and northwestern Illinois.
“By harnessing Northwestern Medicine’s integrated academic health system we can study the use of AI and machine learning in a community setting or for the most advanced research,” said Dr. McCarthy.
In one example of AI use, Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute partnered with Bay Labs, Inc., a west coast-based technology company developing innovative products that use AI to help clinicians process and analyze cardiac ultrasound images. Cardiac ultrasound, or echocardiography, is considered the gateway to the diagnosis and management of heart disease.
“Our partnership with Northwestern Medicine has advanced our work faster than we anticipated, and in exciting new directions,” said Charles Cadieu, PhD, co-founder and CEO of Bay Labs. “In the coming months, we are launching studies at Northwestern Medicine to advance towards three goals — to make echocardiography more widely accessible for the benefit of patient care wherever patients are seen, to increase the health system’s ability to deliver quality care at scale, and to use AI to improve the efficiency and quality of physician echocardiogram interpretation.”
AI is the latest advancement in cardiovascular care at Northwestern. Since Dr. McCarthy and Bluhm teamed up to create the Northwestern Medicine Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute in 2005:
- Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s cardiology and heart surgery program went from unranked by U.S. News & World Report to currently ranked seventh in the United States. The program has been first in Chicago and Illinois for the last 10 consecutive years.
- The number of cardiac surgeries performed at Northwestern Memorial Hospital has quadrupled.
- Patients now have access to world-class cardiovascular care closer to home, only traveling downtown for complex care.
- Northwestern Memorial Hospital was ranked first in the nation for heart failure survival for two consecutive years and first in Illinois and top 10 in the nation for heart attack and stroke survival, according to patient data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid.
- In 2017, surgeons at Northwestern Memorial Hospital performed 39 heart transplants, the most in Illinois in a single year in 20 years.