Irene Pollin, the wife of former Washington Capitals and Wizards owner Abe Pollin, has given $10 million to Johns Hopkins' Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease. Her donation establishes the Kenneth Jay Pollin Professorship in Cardiology and will enable the school to embark on new research projects, the university announced Thursday.
Pollin lost two children to congenital heart defects. Kenneth, for whom the professorship is named, died when he was 13 months old. Pollin's daughter, Linda, died at age 16. Her husband died in 2009.
"If you're lucky to be born with a healthy heart, you need to take care of it, and there's a lot you can do," Pollin, a psychotherapist with a master's degree in social work, said in a statement. "I see this gift to the Ciccarone Center as a way to make a powerful impact on the knowledge and behavior of people to improve their health."
Roger Blumenthal, the director of the Ciccarone Center and first Kenneth Jay Pollin Professor of Cardiology, said he expects the center to "lead transformative work in the field of preventive cardiology."
"Her generosity will make it possible for us to better define risk factors and implement new ways to prevent heart attack and stroke," he said in a statement.
Pollin has long advocated for heart health, and established Sister to Sister in 2000 to promote increased awareness among women. The program has conducted more than 80,000 heart screenings.
She began working with Blumenthal in 2004 after they were introduced by mutual friends.
"We are always in sync," she said. "The big issue is how do you get people to do what they need to do? They have to change behavior."
Blumenthal led the formation of the Ciccarone Center in 1990 with the goals of providing patient care, educating doctors and conducting pioneering research. The center is named for former Hopkins lacrosse coach Henry Ciccarone, who suffered sudden cardiac death at age 50 in 1988.