University of Missouri - Columbia.
Back to Story Archive

Posted 06.29.06


Gift to Fund Research Chair in Sudden Cardiac Death

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Gerald Lee, a University of Missouri-Columbia School of Medicine alumnus, and his wife, Marilyn, have given $1.1 million to fund a chair in cardiology in the MU School of Medicine. The chair will fund research in sudden cardiac death (SCD), one of the leading causes of death in Missouri and the United States. The gift also will fund bedside clinical cardiology diagnosis and therapy.

"Dr. Lee speaks highly of his mentors in the School of Medicine and how much they cared about him as an individual," MU Chancellor Brady Deaton said. "Now, he and his wife are showing how much they care. The generous gift from the Lees creates incredible potential to save lives."

Related Links

According to the American Heart Association, sudden cardiac death, also called sudden cardiac arrest, is death caused by a sudden loss of heart function and occurs within minutes of the onset of symptoms. SCD is not the same as a heart attack, which is the death of heart muscle tissue due to the loss of blood supply. The most common cause for SCD is coronary heart disease, caused by fatty buildups in the arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle. About 335,000 people a year die of coronary heart disease without ever making it to the hospital; most of these deaths are caused by sudden cardiac arrest.

As a cardiologist for many years, Lee has seen how SCD kills otherwise healthy people and devastates families. He and his wife hope this gift will help find a cure for SCD.

Both Gerald and Marilyn were born and raised in Missouri. Gerald graduated from the MU School of Medicine in 1958 and completed his second and third years of internal medicine residency at the medical school. He also had a cardiovascular fellowship and was an instructor in the Department of Internal Medicine and Cardiovascular Research at the MU School of Medicine.

"I felt I had the best foundation I could possibly imagine to enter the cardiovascular disease field and make it a cornerstone of my life," he said. "The major reason we are giving this gift to the University is that we need to do something about one of the leading causes of death in the state of Missouri as well as the United States. We have excellent bedside teaching at University Hospitals. We have terrific training for students and residents and fellows in cardiovascular disease. I think the new faculty is really going to help MU continue to have a top-notch program for bedside diagnosis of cardiovascular disease."

After leaving MU, Lee worked for the Minnesota School of Medicine in Minneapolis, Minn., including serving as chief of the section of cardiology at St. Paul-Ramsey Hospital from 1968 to 1971. He returned to Missouri and was chief of cardiology at St. Mary's Hospital from 1973 to 1986. He also has been president of the Kansas City chapter of the American Heart Association, Missouri Cardiovascular Consultants and West Central Medical Society of Missouri.

Gerald and Marilyn Lee now work together with an organization they founded in 2002 - Bridge Builders Senior Services in Independence, Mo. Bridge Builders is a non-profit organization that helps people with Alzheimer's disease, focusing on the family caregiver.

Marilyn Lee grew up in Independence. In addition to her work with Bridge Builders, she is active in her church and with Hope House, a shelter for victims of domestic violence.

The Lees made their gift during MU's historic fundraising campaign, For All We Call Mizzou. Alumni and friends have contributed $645 million to the campaign since it began in 2000. The campaign goal is to raise $1 billion by December 2008.



MU News Bureau: