GARDEN CITY, NY – The renowned Dr. Kimon Bekelis was honored by the American Heart Association (AHA) on April 26 at the Garden City Hotel at the Association’s Annual Heart & Stroke Ball. Dr. Bekelis is Chairman, Neurointerventional Services at Catholic Health Services of Long Island (CHSLI); Director, Stroke and Brain Aneurysm Center of Excellence at Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center; Co-Director, Neuro ICU at Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center; Director, Population Health Research Institute of New York at CHSLI; and Assistant Professor at The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice.
The event raises funds for the AHA and the American Stroke Association (ASA), its many programs, education and research efforts that have helped develop so many advances in the treatment and understanding of cardiovascular disease. Dr. Jorge L. Gardyn was also honored at the event for his efforts in heart disease intervention for members of the fire services of Long Island. Co-chairs of the 2018 Long Island Heart & Stroke Ball Renee Pope and Todd Fabricant presented the awards to the honorees.
George Lizourezos, Esq., Partner, Intellectual Property Counsel for Carter, DeLuca, Farrell & Schmidt LLP was also in attendance with his daughters, Katherine and Vicky. He told The National Herald, “As a member of the Executive Leadership Team of the Heart & Stroke Ball, I am very pleased that our honoree this year was Dr. Kimon Bekelis, a renowned Greek-American heart and brain surgeon. It was a great event which raised thousands of dollars for cardiovascular research and educational programs. My law firm is proud to have been the entertainment sponsor.”
He took time out of his busy schedule to speak with The National Herald about the honor and his background.
Dr. Bekelis said, “It is very humbling to be the first neurosurgeon on Long Island to be honored with this award by the American Heart Association. This solidifies my team’s commitment to be a major part of transforming the care of stroke and brain aneurysm patients in the South Shore of Long Island and Suffolk County in general.”
Of his background, he told TNH, “My parents grew up in the town of Edessa in Northern Greece. They moved to Athens and the suburb of Glyfada, where I was born. I attended medical school at the University of Athens, from where I graduated summa cum laude. Subsequently, I completed a year-long postdoctoral fellowship in neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, before starting my neurosurgery residency at Dartmouth in New Hampshire, where I served as the chief resident. Lastly, I obtained additional sub-specialty training by completing a fellowship in endovascular neurosurgery, and neuro-critical care at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, one of the busiest stroke centers in the country.”
Dr. Bekelis attended the event with his fiancée Hillary Deguire whom he thanked in his acceptance speech along with his team and all those who have helped him throughout his career. Deguire told TNH that the couple met when he was a resident and she a nurse at Dartmouth. When asked if they visit Greece often, Dr. Bekelis told TNH, they visited every year, but will probably skip this year due to his latest research project.
Strokes are a leading cause of disability in the United States and account for millions of deaths each year, globally. The need for the fastest possible treatment is vital for saving lives and preventing disability. As noted on the AHA/ASA website, strokes were once the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, but thanks to extraordinary advances and the dynamic efforts of doctors like Dr. Bekelis, strokes have gone down to the fifth leading cause of death.
The moving story of heart transplant recipient John Sperzel was also shared at the event in a video presentation and with the man himself present only 9 months after receiving the life-saving transplant. He had no history of heart disease in his family and no symptoms when his heart went into ventricular tachycardia while on vacation in Aruba. He was taken to the hospital in a taxi, then transferred to a hospital in Florida, and from there to Boston where he was told he needed a heart transplant after all other options were exhausted. Sperzel faced another challenge as he was placed on the waiting list for a donor heart, his blood type is O negative, the rarest type. He said, out of 2,000, only about 130 could be a match. Then he faced a blood clot which further threatened his life. About to be treated for the clot, he was told a donor heart had been found. Sperzel said he felt sad that someone had to die in order for him to live, but he was also grateful to the donor and the family for saving his life. His experience highlighted the importance of supporting the AHA/ASA which has helped researchers develop so many since life-saving procedures, treatments, and medications over the years without which Sperzel and many others in attendance at the event would not have been there.