Donors Impact Program for Serious Heart Disease
When their 16-year-old son John Babbitt fatally collapsed while playing basketball, David and JoAnne Babbitt went into shock. After the autopsy, they learned he had hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a complex, genetic heart disease that occurs in approximately one in 500 individuals. HCM is also the leading cause of sudden cardiac death in young athletes under 30.
In 2014, eight years after David and JoAnne Babbitt’s tragic loss, Morristown Medical Center opened its doors to the Chanin T. Mast Center for Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM) at Gagnon Cardiovascular Institute with support from a $1 million gift from the Adam R. and Chanin T. Mast Foundation. Robert and Terry Mast lost their daughter, Chanin Mast, to HCM in 1999 and seeded the Chanin T. Mast Center for HCM to help raise community awareness about the condition as well access to top-tier medical treatments nearby.
Growth of the Chanin T. Mast Center for HCM
The Chanin T. Mast Center for HCM has made considerable advances in diagnostics and treatment under the leadership of co-directors Matthew Martinez, MD, and Martin Maron, MD. In the past two years, the program has also significantly expanded thanks to a loyal community of donors, including:
- John Taylor Babbitt Foundation
- Ken and Eileen Berkowitz
- Gar-Wood Burwell
- The Davino Family Foundation
- Jonathan Dietz
- Mark and Shari Newman
- Nick and Lori Rizzo
- Jonathan and Stacey Seligson
Philanthropy is crucial to the overall success of the Chanin T. Mast Center for HCM and has enhanced patient care, supported research studies, facilitated community outreach and funded educational events. An HCM Fellowship Program – the first in the country – began in July 2022 and philanthropy from Jonathan and Stacey Seligson will fund its first two years.
After the loss of their eldest son, the Babbitts founded the John Taylor Babbitt Foundation. Their younger son, Andrew Babbitt, is under Dr. Maron’s care at the Chanin T. Mast Center due to their family history of HCM. In 2021, the John Taylor Babbitt Foundation made a generous donation to fund a virtual lecture, “COVID-19 Virus, Vaccine and the Heart: How to Safely Return to Youth and Competitive Sports,” which was led by Dr. Martinez, who also serves as director of Atlantic Health System Sports Cardiology at Morristown Medical Center. The talk featured national experts Jonathan Kim, MD, who has authored guidelines on the return-to-play for athletes after COVID-19 infection, and Jason Kessler, MD, MPH, section chief, Infectious Disease at Morristown Medical Center. Hundreds of participants, from physicians to parents, participated in the lecture.
“Because the mission of our foundation aligned so much with the Chanin T. Mast Center, we feel we can be much more effective through collaborations like this with like-minded organizations in our community,” said David Babbitt.
Another donor-supported conference is planned for December 2022 at the National Basketball Players Association headquarters in New York City. It will cover best practices in cardiac sports health for professional sports associations. The lineup of national and international speakers joining the event will be unrivaled for cardiology education amongst elite and professional athletes.
Donors recently fully funded a Cardiac Clinical Data Repository that consolidates information on HCM patients to improve the overall understanding of the disease and ultimately saves lives. The effort will be shared with cardiologists worldwide, giving them a proven set of standards to evaluate and offer superior, cutting-edge treatments for patients. Another donor-funded study at the Chanin T. Mast Center for HCM has set out to assess the outcomes from COVID-19 positive athletes to analyze the short-term side effects posed to their health.
Additionally, thanks to donor support, Dr. Martinez has created a Sports Cardiology Research Foundation to track the heart health of young and retired professional athletes in collaboration with Athletic Heart. This organization works with sports teams globally to provide screenings and sports cardiac imaging.
Beyond research, philanthropy will support Project Heartbeat, a community outreach effort facilitating the free distribution of automated external defibrillators (AED) to restore normal heartbeats or restart a heartbeat if it stops during a cardiac event. Devices will be dispersed and training will be provided across the community to schools, colleges, town recreational sports organizations, faith-based groups and senior centers. Moreover, Dr. Martinez is providing AED and CPR education to the Professional Referee Organization this year, which oversees professional soccer teams throughout the United States and Canada.
Over and above all of these advances in research and outreach, in the last two years, medical experts at the Chanin T. Mast Center have authored multiple national publications that would not have been possible without donor support.
“There has never been a better time to care for HCM patients,” said Dr. Martinez. “The overwhelming support from our donors allows us to provide a comprehensive HCM program with access to the best diagnostic tools, treatment options and novel research studies found anywhere in the world. None of this would have happened without their incredible and unwavering support. We are forever grateful.”
HCM patient and donor Jonathan Dietz is exceptionally grateful for his care from the Chanin T. Mast Center. A generous donor, Dietz had heart surgery a few years ago, and today, he says he feels like a new man, lauding the skills of the HCM physicians.
“For a condition as serious as mine, the options are scarce,” said Dietz. “I hope that my philanthropy can expand awareness and outreach.”
Support the Chanin T. Mast Center for HCM
To learn more about supporting the Chanin T. Mast Center for HCM at Gagnon Cardiovascular Institute, or contact Susan Johns, foundation officer, at 973-593-2413.