A few years ago, in the living room of Syd Belzberg, a strategy was hatched to raise more awareness and money for sports cardiology under the leadership of Dr. Saul Isserow at UBC Hospital. Syd was an early major supporter and that day his son-in-law, Brian Kerzner, took on the challenge to reach out through his network of friends to raise more money. Brian approached close friends and real estate leaders, Hendrik Zessel and Jim Szabo, and suggested they needed to understand this initiative and get a cardiologist.
“We didn’t think we needed one – we’re fit, bike, ski, work out,” Jim says. “Brian said, ‘You don’t want to be looking for one in the Yellow Pages, last minute, when you need one.’ Well that was the smartest thing anyone ever said to us.”
Dr. Saul Isserow was recommended as the Medical Director of Sports Cardiology BC, a multidisciplinary program at the Centre for Cardiovascular Excellence at UBC Hospital. The Centre helps people stay active while managing health risks.
“I met Saul and he talked about a research centre he wanted to open,” Jim recalls. “But there was additional funding needed for equipment and ongoing research in cardiovascular health and sports cardiology.”
“Saul is a guy you can definitely get behind,” he continues, looking around at the Centre’s hallways. “I felt like I could really make an impact in our community here. Heart disease is something you can get ahead of and be proactive in treating – you can manage it through medicine and exercise.”
He pauses and shakes his head.
“People usually don’t see a cardiologist until it’s too late,” he continues. “There are athletes who don’t realize they have heart issues until it’s too late. A lot of cardiac issues we see can be prevented and I want to help that change – help change how we look at things.”
As a result of this inspiration, Brian, Jim, Hendrik reached out to their circle of friends and associates, raising over $1 million for the innovative program.
Dr. Isserow says the gifts will have a huge impact on the program and its patients.
“It’s allowing us to do research in a field that wouldn’t conventionally get funding,” says Dr. Isserow nodding his head. “It’s an entirely new area of cardiology. We’re treating a new generation who are getting to an older age, trying to do more and wanting to be more physically active. We want to help them stay physically active in a healthy way.”