“Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they just have the heart.”
– Elizabeth Andrew, Author
Tampa Cardiologist Dr. Benedict S. Maniscalco certainly has a heart — a heart for helping hearts around the world.
He has held various prestigious leadership positions in his career: the American College of Cardiology, he taught at the University of South Florida College of Medicine and founded the pioneering St. Joseph’s Heart Institute. But his passion? Leading Heartbeat International Foundation – a global charity with a mission to end unnecessary death and suffering from cardiac arrhythmia.
We sat with Heartbeat’s president to get his perspective of the organization’s past, present, and future.
Q: How long have you been with Heartbeat International?
A: Well, I’ve been in my present capacity as president for 13 years. But my story of working with Heartbeat goes back a little further than that.
Q: How did you become involved with the organization?
A: I was very fortunate when I was a young medical student to have met Dr. Henry McIntosh. Henry was chief of cardiology at Duke Medical School. Years later, I was governor of the Florida chapter of the American College of Cardiology.
One day, Henry walked up to me and said, “Benny, I need to talk with you for a couple of minutes.” I said, “Well, yes sir. Anything you want to do, we’ll talk.” And he said, “Well, you know, after I left as chairman at Baylor, I came to Watson Clinic. And now Watson Clinic has a mandatory retirement for me at the certain age of 70.” And I said, “Well, you deserve to have a nice retirement.”
And he said, “Well, that’s not the problem. The problem is that if I do that and leave there, then the charity that I started will go away. And I can’t have that happen.” I said, “Well, Henry, what charity?” And so he told me, “It’s called Heartbeat International and it’s a program by which we provide pacing devices to the poor people of the world.” I said, “Well, I didn’t know you were doing that. That’s amazing. Why don’t you come to Tampa and be my partner if you need to retire at Watson Clinic.” So years after I was a medical student, the professor became my partner. That was a day of blessing.
Q: What is it that other people need to know about Heartbeat International that they might not be aware of?
A: Well, I think the biggest problem Heartbeat International has is actually the fact that very few people know about us. They need to know that we are the largest supplier of implantable devices around the world of any organization. What’s more important is that we’re structured in a way that allows for patient care to be exemplary and continuous.
For instance, our requirements of a center when we start the program in any particular location is that not only should the patient be without financial recourse to get the device, but the doctor must perform their fees gratis. The hospital must perform their services gratis. And the patients should be followed up on a long-term basis as long as they’re still in that category of financial distress. So we follow these patients for a lifetime, if necessary, and change their batteries when needed.
Q: Why should other people or corporations get involved?
A: I think you just have to look at the mission. I mean, the mission is so pure. The impact is so real. We have a direct mission, where the cost we have is 98% devices. And so we have a direct impact.
If you are in the United States of America, you have by the FDA, a regulatory body, a law that says if you get to a certain date, your product is no longer saleable and may not leave the continental United States. So these companies destroy hundreds of thousands and, at times, millions of dollars of devices. So what we said was, “Don’t destroy them. Donate them to us and we will deploy them and we will help save lives around the world.” So each company needs to look into its operations and its good partner in society’s role. And we are an organization that merits their consideration for those donations.
Dr. Maniscalco’s service and dedication to Heartbeat International Foundation has been impactful in the lives of thousands of people, their children, their families, and their communities.
To support Heartbeat International Foundation, make a donation today.