Cardiac surgeons are a unique breed of medical practitioner, honing a specific skill set with which they perform life-saving operations.
Sometimes, however, their actions can elevate them to humanitarian status.
One of those people is Dr. Livia Kapusta, who will be in Ottawa on Oct. 24 to deliver a speech at the Jewish Federation of Ottawa’s Choices event, as well as meet with members of the local medical community.
A Dutch cardiac surgeon now working in Israel, Kapusta has gained international recognition for helping give children from developing countries a new lease on life by way of heart surgery. As part of the surgical team behind Save a Child’s Heart, a humanitarian project based out of the Wolfson Medical Centre in Israel, Kapusta travels to developing nations to assess the condition of impoverished children needing life-saving cardiac surgery.
Organizers of the federation’s annual women’s evening are excited by the prospect of having a member of this inspirational humanitarian team speak at Choices.
“(Save a Child’s Heart) is a very unique and moving endeavour,” said Cindi Resnick, a member of the federation’s Choices committee, who toured the Israeli hospital two years ago and encouraged fellow members to bring Kapusta to Ottawa for the event.
“The doctors bring the children to Israel where they receive care and their families are lodged close to the hospital, where they sometimes stay for months. It’s all done at no cost to the children’s families,” she said. “It’s such a fantastic humanitarian effort.”
Funding for the operations, travel expenses, lodging and follow-up appointments is covered by Save a Child’s Heart and its partner agencies. The group also trains physicians at Wolfson Hospital in the hope that those doctors will create their own centres of excellence in other countries.
Choices is one of the Federation’s many annual fundraising events. Envisioned as a compelling and inspirational evening for those in attendance, the event features speeches from women who have made life-altering choices. Proceeds raised go towards the Federation’s annual campaign to support more than 20 Jewish beneficiary agencies in the Ottawa area.
Event chairwoman Sandra Zagon said when the committee decided upon Save a Child’s Heart as the focus of this year’s Choices, the organization selected Kapusta as speaker.
“The quality of this speaker is that she’s made choices to change countries and the direction of her profession,” said Zagon. “Clearly it is from a platform of values that she espouses - she wants to make a difference in the world.”
Zagon said there is a common Hebrew phrase, “tikkun olam” - which translates to “repairing the world” - and said the work of Kapusta and her fellow surgeons shows they strongly believe in this sentiment.
Given Kapusta’s professional credentials, event organizers sought to capitalize on her visit by arranging meetings between Kapusta and cardiac teams from the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario and the University of Ottawa Heart Institute. They also hope to introduce her to an interfaith group operating within their clergy.
“Those will be two interesting meetings – for both sides,” said Resnick. “Our heart institute and children’s hospital are so welcoming, and are looking forward to meeting her.”
Choices is now in its sixth year, attracting 300 participants annually. Fundraising campaign chairman Mike Landau said the federation’s fundraising activities are as diverse as they are inclusive - much like the individual campaigns supporting the United Way. Yearly fundraising totals regularly reach $4 million.