Working Hard, Doing Good

Grateful couple gives $1 million to support cancer and cardiovascular care

BIDMC Patient Sam Spektor and his wife Ann Berman

When Sam Spektor was referred to BIDMC, he knew he would receive excellent care. What he was not anticipating was the degree of personalized attention he would receive from two leading BIDMC physician–scientists: David Avigan, M.D., and Peter Zimetbaum, M.D. "Dr. Avigan and Dr. Zimetbaum were the absolute best doctors anyone could hope for—kind, compassionate, and so competent," says Spektor. "They treated me as a person, not a patient."

During his care experience, many elements stood out to Spektor and his wife, Ann Berman. Among them was the fact that, in addition to managing patients, Avigan and Zimetbaum both devote significant time and energy to research endeavors aimed at improving clinical outcomes. "Both David and Peter are incredibly dedicated, meticulous, and motivated," says Berman. Adds Spektor: "My Grandma Ruthie always said: 'Work hard, do good.' David and Peter are doing exactly that."

As chief of the Division of Hematology and Hematologic Malignancies within BIDMC's Cancer Center, Avigan is a world leader in cancer immunotherapy, which harnesses the power of the immune system to fight the disease. In his laboratory, he developed a proprietary, individualized cancer vaccine that combines a patient's cancer and immune cells. Today, Avigan and his team are conducting large-scale clinical trials with sites around the world to test the vaccine's effectiveness, and early results suggest it reduces recurrence.

Zimetbaum is BIDMC's associate chief of the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine and a global expert in the study and treatment of atrial fibrillation—a type of arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat, that can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure, and other complications. Zimetbaum has led numerous clinical trials of novel therapies for patients with atrial fibrillation and is renowned for his work exploring clinical effectiveness, quality, ethics, and public policy issues that affect cardiovascular care.

"David and Peter's passion for their work is remarkable," says Berman, who, with Spektor, committed $1 million to BIDMC. "Our gift is an expression of deep gratitude for the excellent care I received," says Spektor. This support is divided evenly between Avigan and Zimetbaum and is unrestricted. Berman, who was formerly the chief financial officer at Harvard University, understands the importance of unrestricted giving, which offers investigators much-needed flexibility.

Though working in vastly different fields, Avigan and Zimetbaum have two things in common that appealed to the couple. They both collaborate closely with other institutions—which is rare in a highly competitive academic environment. And they seek to define a major paradigm shift in their respective arenas to have a far-reaching impact. "Some of what is so appealing about Peter and David's scientific work is their ability and tenacity to find better health care solutions that will help innumerable patients in the future," says Spektor. "Additionally, the physicians and scientists that they are training today will become tomorrow's experts."

Both Avigan and Zimetbaum are profoundly thankful for Berman and Spektor's philanthropy, which is paramount to advancing their work. "Thanks to Ann and Sam, I will be able to accelerate my team's efforts to validate a novel cancer vaccine," says Avigan. Adds Zimetbaum: "The goal of my work is to improve the standard of care for atrial fibrillation, and this philanthropy is vital to making that vision a reality."

My Grandma Ruthie always said: ‘Work hard, do good.’ David and Peter are doing exactly that.
Sam Spektor
BIDMC Grateful Patient