On Saturday, May 7, the Memorial Hermann Foundation hosted its annual Circle of Life Gala at the Hilton Americas-Houston, chaired by Susan Sarofim and the Memorial Hermann Foundation Board. Clarence Cazalot, Walter Johnson, and Jim Smith served as Honorary Chairs for the sold-out event, which raised $2.9 million with 1,600 guests in attendance.
The evening honored Memorial Hermann’s own “Father of Trauma” and Memorial Hermann Life Flight® founder, the late Dr. James H. “Red” Duke, Jr. Dr. Duke, who also served as the John B. Homes Professor of Clinical Sciences at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth), was instrumental in developing and bringing the air-ambulance program to Houston in 1976 and served as its medical director for nearly four decades. Since its inaugural flight, Life Flight has become one of the most successful air-ambulance programs in the country.
In addition to his medical prowess and legacy, the event also recognized Dr. Duke’s memorable bedside charisma. “From his down-home Texas wit and charm to his signature wire-rimmed glasses, careworn cowboy hats and bristle-brush mustache, Dr. Red Duke was one of Houston's most recognizable personalities,” shared Dan Wolterman, Memorial Hermann Health System president & CEO.
At the gala, Wolterman announced the renaming of the Memorial Hermann Texas Trauma Institute which is home to Houston’s only Level I trauma center with its own air-ambulance capabilities, and a verified adult burn center. According to Wolterman, in honor of Dr. Duke’s great legacy, the Institute will now be named the Memorial Hermann Red Duke Trauma Institute.
“This significant change is a glowing tribute and recognition to Dr. Duke’s admirable contributions to trauma care,” stated Wolterman. Dr. Duke’s daughter, Dr. Sara Duke and husband Charles King were in attendance and received the recognition on behalf of the Duke family.
Memorial Hermann also paid tribute to Wolterman, who recently announced his retirement from his post as president and CEO of Memorial Hermann. In a powerful video tribute, friends, colleagues and Memorial Hermann Health System Board Members shared their appreciation for Wolterman’s indelible leadership and friendship. At the conclusion of the video, and as a special surprise, it was announced that a Life Flight helicopter would be named in his honor. To commemorate the gift, Life Flight crew members joined Wolterman on stage to present him with a replica of his named Life Flight helicopter.
“I’m deeply humbled to receive such a special gift from the organization. Life Flight, which serves as a signature program of our system, is one example of Memorial Hermann’s commitment to providing access to care for everyone,” said Wolterman. “After 17 rewarding years of service with Memorial Hermann, retiring from this organization is like giving up your kids. But from a distance, I will watch with the eyes of a proud parent as the next generation of leadership takes Memorial Hermann to a bigger and brighter future.”
Dr. Benjamin K. Chu, who was recently named Wolterman’s successor, assumes the role of Memorial Hermann’s president & CEO, effective May 9.
A Memorable Event captured the evening’s sentiment and transformed the room with beautiful white clouds adorned in crystals and a helicopter made of fresh flowers. Following a delicious dinner, the audience filled the dance floor and enjoyed music from Atlanta-based band Simply Irresistible, which included more than 40 performers. Individuals spotted on the dance floor included Houston’s elite philanthropic and business community, along with Houston’s brightest medical minds. The Circle of Life Gala proved itself once again as one of the most entertaining and exciting events of the year, punctuated with an evening of special tributes.
Guests in attendance included: Lori Wolterman, Ileana and Michael Treviño, Kirbyjon Caldwell, Deborah and Gardner Cannon, Sherry Smith, Donna Moylan, Cathy and Giorgio Borlenghi, Cathy and Joe Cleary, Allison and Craig Cordola, Susie and Iggy Distefano, Jo Lynn and Gregg Falgout, Holly and Tom Forney, Christine Falgout and Bill Gutkneckt, Vicki and Bob Harvey, Suzie and Larry Johnson, Philamena and Arthur Baird, Diane Lokey Farb, Alice and Keith Mosing, Gary Petersen, Donna and Tony Vallone, Hallie Vanderhider and Dr. Giuseppe Colasurdo.