An Akron Children’s Hospital pediatric cardiologist and one of his mentors were honored in February as “Heart Champions” at 2 separate American Heart Association Heart Ball events in Youngstown and Akron, respectively.
Dr. C.R. Patel, director of maternal-fetal cardiology at Akron Children’s, and Dr. Peter Vande Kappelle, Jr., from Akron Children’s Mahoning Valley, accepted their respective awards in front of family, medical colleagues and even one of their patients.
The tributes honoring their contributions to pediatric heart health were dotted with heartwarming personal stories from parents of children whose lives were literally touched by these physicians.
Akron Heart Ball
“Dr. Patel’s reputation around the country is stellar, and the passion he shows when working with patients and their families, as well as the contributions he’s made toward advancing children’s cardiac health made him a well-deserved choice for this award,” said Colleen Repie, metro executive director of the AHA’s Akron division.
The Gwyer family attended the Akron event to talk about about how Dr. Patel saved the life of their 8-month-old daughter, Charlotte, who was born with a series of heart defects.
Dr. Patel’s interest in medicine traces back to his youth. He knew in high school that he wanted to pursue a career in medicine, and he’d often visit and observe his uncle, who was a physician, work in his clinic.
Dr. Patel went on to study biology in college in India, and placed first in his graduating class of 1,800 students.
He attended medical school in Baroda, India, and then came to the United States and completed an internship and residency in pediatrics at St. Agnes Hospital in Baltimore, Md. He went on to complete a fellowship in pediatric cardiology at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland, and joined the staff of Akron Children’s heart center in 2001.
Youngstown Heart Ball
Dr. Vande Kappelle has earned a national reputation in pediatric cardiology.
For more than 10 years, he has presented across the Midwest to medical students and professionals on pediatric cardiology topics. He’s also a member in training for the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology.
“I was both thrilled and humbled to be recognized by the American Heart Association, particularly to be honored with one of my mentors, Dr. Patel,” he said. “The credit I get from patients’ families for just doing my job surprises me all the time.”
Dr. Vande Kappelle went on to acknowledge the work AHA does with research and promoting the future of cardiology.
Three year-old Bekah Plant, of Mineral Ridge, and her family joined Dr. Vande Kappelle at the Youngstown Heart Ball.
Bekah’s mom, Sarah, shared how Dr. Vande Kappelle provided a much-needed ray of hope after diagnosing a complex set of heart defects and executing a treatment plan that saved Bekah’s life.
Dr. Vande Kappelle said the first time he saw an echocardiogram that showed how blood moves through the heart made a lasting impression on him, and inspired him to specialize in cardiology.
“Pediatric cardiology is based on birth defects, and the intricacies of how they evolve just fits with how my brain functions. I enjoy the challenge and knowing that we can help these kids,” he said. “Thirty or 40 years ago we couldn’t help many of them, but the field has advanced so far that we can help almost all of them now.”
As part of our year-long anniversary celebration, we’ll be telling the story of Akron Children’s through the eyes of past and present employees, doctors, donors, volunteers and patient families. We encourage you to share your own memories and stories about us.