Skip to main content

Women's Lifestyle Magazine

2020 Grand Rapids Virtual Heart Ball will honor Dr. John C. Heiser

May 21, 2020 03:44PM ● By Two Eagles Marcus

(Grand Rapids-April 2020) - The American Heart Association West Michigan is presenting the Richard M. DeVos Award for Medical Excellence as part of the 2020 Grand Rapids Virtual Heart Ball. 

The award is given annually to individuals who enhance the cardiovascular quality of life for many and play a significant role in advancing the mission of the American Heart Association in West Michigan. 

The 2020 Richard M. DeVos Award for Medical Excellence recipient is Dr. John C. Heiser of Spectrum Health.

Dr. Heiser has been a leader in the field of cardiothoracic surgery over several decades in West Michigan.  During his tenure, the open-heart surgery program has developed a breadth of excellence resulting in the fact that patients in West Michigan no longer need to travel to other cities for treatment. He has overseen the development of the transplant program, many niche programs like hyperobstructive cardiomyopathy, and implemented a pulmonary embolism response team.

He has been an innovator and collaborative researcher in the structural heart movement which has revolutionized the care of patients with aortic and mitral valve disease.

One of Dr. Heiser’s remarkable accomplishments has been the development of an enormously successful Structural Heart Program at Spectrum. This has allowed literally thousands of patients to receive new heart valves in a procedure known as TAVR, which provides replacement of a diseased aortic valve through the bloodstream, rather than with traditional open surgery. This technique was in its infancy when Dr. Heiser championed it, and his collaboration with colleagues in cardiology has resulted in nothing short of spectacular results. He was a major investigator in several national trials that have brought this technique from being something only used for the sickest patients who would not survive traditional surgery, to a very useful commonly employed method of valve replacement for more typical “everyday” patients. This investigative work has been the subject of multiple papers in the New England Journal of Medicine and therefore his clinical research has had worldwide implications.

In addition, he has overseen the development of the structural heart program and been an innovator in international research, participating in pivotal trials. Most notably, he has been a great mentor and teacher, developing skilled surgeons for the future. He is the epitome of a caring, empathetic physician and always leads by example. 

During his leadership, he has expanded the team from six to ten surgeons and instigated the development of a Fellowship program for training in cardiac surgery. Dr. Heiser has pushed for more diversity, and this is reflected in his department.  He has cultivated many talented physicians and is respected across the hospital by other specialists, nurses and front-line staff.  Through all of this, his unwavering vision was to provide state of the art cardiothoracic surgical care so that no one would have to leave West Michigan to receive care elsewhere.

Dr. Heiser and his wife are also involved in many charitable endeavors within the community.

Due to COVID-19, the Grand Rapids 2020 Heart Ball has been rescheduled from a live event to a virtual happy hour event on May 28, 2020 starting at 5:00 p.m. Dr. Muhammad Umar Farooq of Mercy Health and Don Olney of Abbott are co-chairs of the event.

The Heart Ball is now in its twenty-third year and has raised nearly $5.5 million for education and research. Past honorees of the Heart Ball have included such notables as Former President Gerald R. Ford, Frederik Meijer, and Richard DeVos, who allowed his name to be used for the awards. 

The American Heart Association is building the next generation of healthy hearts through “Move More” play, teaching Hands-Only CPR, and encouraging healthy habits throughout West Michigan.

The Association is working diligently to provide reliable, science-based information for the approximately 120 million people in the United States who currently have one or more cardiovascular conditions which could put them at higher risk for COVID-19 complications. 

All proceeds will benefit the American Heart Association, which recently announced a $2.5 million fund for rapid response scientific research projects to investigate the specific cardiovascular implications of coronavirus. They have also revised CPR guidelines and have offered their programs for hospital guidelines to help the medical community develop protocols for Coronavirus.  

Sponsors of the 2020 Grand Rapids Virtual Heart Ball include our presenting sponsor, Meijer. Additional Sponsors include Spectrum Health, Barnes & Thornburg, Mercantile Bank of Michigan, and VanDyk Mortgage. Media sponsors include The River 100.5, Mix 95.7, and Women's LifeStyle Magazine.

We encourage virtual attendees to have some fun, don their formal wear or show off their athletic shoes. Post to social media using #GrandRapidsHeartBall, and prepare to toast the event with your favorite heart-healthy, happy-hour beverage! For sponsorship or attendee information, call (616) 482-1503, or visit