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Hopkins Pulse - Impactful Gift Boosts Heart Disease Prevention

Hopkins Pulse Summer 2013

Impactful Gift Boosts Heart Disease Prevention

Date: June 15, 2013

Irene Pollin’s transformative gift has established a new professorship in memory of her son, Kenneth, pictured at left.
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Irene Pollin’s transformative gift has established a new professorship in memory of her son, Kenneth.

Irene Pollin suffered the tragedy of losing not one, but two children, because of congenital heart defects. Her son, Kenneth, died at 13 months of age and her daughter, Linda, lived to age 16. Those experiences led Pollin, a psychotherapist with a master’s degree in social work, to become a widely respected health advocate for people with chronic illness and the founder of a national organization devoted to heart disease prevention in women. 

Now, Pollin has made a $10 million commitment to benefit the Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease at Johns Hopkins. Her gift has established the Kenneth Jay Pollin Professorship in Cardiology and will support vital research on heart disease prevention.

“If you’re lucky to be born with a healthy heart, you need to take care of it, and there’s a lot you can do,” Pollin says. “I see this as a way to make a powerful impact on the knowledge and behavior of people to improve their health,” she adds.

Her gift will enable the Ciccarone Center to advance the field of prevention in many ways, according to Roger Blumenthal, professor of medicine and director of the Ciccarone Center, who has become the endowed Kenneth Jay Pollin Professor of Cardiology. 

“Ms. Pollin’s extraordinary support will help us lead transformative work in the field of preventive cardiology. Her generosity will make it possible for us to better define risk factors and implement new ways to prevent heart attack and stroke,” Blumenthal says.

Pollin and Blumenthal were introduced by mutual friends in 2004 and, because of their common interest in heart disease prevention, especially for women, they worked together on research and outreach efforts over the years. 

“Roger does incredible work on prevention, and we are always in sync,” she says. “The big issue is how do you get people to do what they need to do? They have to change behavior.” 

In 2000, she established Sister to Sister, an organization dedicated to educating and motivating women to make constructive lifestyle changes that can improve their heart health. At health fairs conducted in Baltimore and more than 20 other cities, the organization has provided free evaluation, counseling and information to more than 80,000 women, making it the nation’s largest provider of free heart screenings for women. 

Pollin, who lives in Bethesda, Md., is the author of two books and has earned numerous awards for her advocacy work. She and her late husband Abe Pollin, who died in 2009, were the owners of the NBA’s Washington Wizards and the NHL’s Washington Capitals.

Pollin says her gift to establish the endowed professorship in son Kenneth’s name is a way to honor his memory. “He was a beautiful baby. This is a way to acknowledge that happy, wonderful little guy.” 




The Man Behind the Professorship

Roger Blumenthal, M.D.

Kenneth Jay Pollin Professor of Cardiology 

Director of the Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease at Johns Hopkins

A national expert on the development, treatment and prevention of heart disease

Co-editor-in-chief of the premier textbook in the field, Preventive Cardiology

Author of pivotal articles on the development of improved strategies to assess cardiovascular risk