By Joe Tash
Rancho Santa Fe residents Randy Woods and Wendy Walker will be honored later this month at a gala held to benefit the Sulpizio Cardiovascular Center on the campus of UC San Diego.
Woods and Walker are longtime supporters of the center, which opened its new 128,000-square foot facility last year.
The Heart of San Diego gala, now in its 15th year, will be held at 6 p.m. on Feb. 25 at the Park Hyatt Aviara Resort in Carlsbad. For tickets or information, visit www.heartcentergala.com or call or (858) 534-6223.
Woods is founder and managing director of Eden Woods Investments, and has worked in cardiovascular drug development for most of his career. He is a board member for the cardiovascular center and in that capacity has helped raise funds for the new building and the equipment needed to run it.
Walker is executive producer for Larry King, whose long-running interview show on CNN ended in December 2010. King continues to do specials for CNN. Over the years, said Walker, she and King have produced hundreds of shows on medical topics, including many on heart health.
Among Walker’s recent contributions to the Sulpizio Cardiovascular Center was helping to convince Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s chief medical correspondent, to serve as MC at this year’s gala.
Money raised this year will be used to purchase a da Vinci Surgical System for the performance of robotic, minimally-invasive cardiovascular procedures.
The Sulpizio Cardiovascular Center includes outpatient clinics, four operating rooms, 54 hospital beds for cardiac patients and an emergency room.
“This is world class, state-of-the-art, cardiovascular center that people will probably come from all over the world to go to,” said Woods.
“If I’m going to be treated for a cardiovascular condition, I want to go where they have the latest and the greatest,” he said.
Walker said her father suffered a heart attack when he was in his 30s, before she was born, and lived with heart disease his entire life. She also learned about heart disease by working with King, who has suffered from heart-related ailments for more than 20 years.
She said the public needs to know that heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women in the United States.
“It’s not a man’s disease, we all have to be really careful,” she said.
Another local resident who has supported the cardiovascular center over the years is internationally known fashion designer Zandra Rhodes, a Del Mar resident who has a design studio in Solana Beach.
Rhodes has designed the invitations for the gala, as well as collectibles given to attendees, such as glass paperweights.
She said she became involved through her partner, entertainment executive Salah Hassanein, who suffered a heart attack and had a pacemaker implanted.
“We realized there needed to be a dedicated facility for dealing with problems to do with the heart, as well as a training facility. It’s really the only center of its kind between here and L.A.,” she said.
Rhodes helped with this year’s gala while preparing for a Feb. 29 fashion show in Paris.
She said San Diego needed a facility like the Sulpizio Cardiovascular Center to become a destination, “not just a pretty place where you have to leave if something happens.”