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Harbor Freight Tools Owner and His Foundation Give $50M to Create Smidt Heart Institute

Gift From Eric and Susan Smidt, Largest in Cedars-Sinai History, Advances Cardiovascular Research and Innovation

Cedars-Sinai announced today a $50 million gift from Eric and Susan Smidt and The Smidt Foundation to create the Smidt Heart Institute. The gift will advance vital research and innovative practices in cardiology and cardiovascular surgery.

The gift—the largest in Cedars-Sinai's 116-year history—will enable the hospital to expand its research and treatment of heart conditions by pursuing the most innovative science, advancing clinical trials and emerging treatments, and training the next generation of heart specialists.

"Eric and Susan Smidt approached Cedars-Sinai with the desire to contribute a transformative and inspiring gift that will improve lives both here in Los Angeles and around the world," said Thomas M. Priselac, president and CEO of Cedars-Sinai. "The Smidt Heart Institute will propel us forward in leading the quest for innovation with the goal of devising better treatments for heart disease, one of the world's greatest health needs."

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in Los Angeles County, across the U.S. and around the world. More than 92 million Americans live with cardiovascular diseases, including heart attack, stroke and high blood pressure, and about 2,200 die each day from these conditions.

As the top cardiology and heart surgery center in the western U.S., the Smidt Heart Institute brings together 16 centers and programs with specialization in transplantation, stem cell therapy, congenital heart disease, women's heart health, valve disorders, arrhythmia and hypertension.

More than 100 doctors at the Smidt Heart Institute are pursuing the most advanced cardiac research, such as using stem cells to regrow heart tissue after a heart attack, while treating patients with some of the world's leading heart techniques. These techniques include using 3-D printing to help physicians perform minimally invasive heart valve repair and replacement for children with congenital heart defects.

"We are deeply moved by the opportunity to support our family's local medical center and also serve the global medical community by funding Cedars-Sinai's internationally renowned heart research," said Eric Smidt, the founder, owner and CEO of the national retailer Harbor Freight Tools, based in Calabasas, California.

"We want to help amplify Cedars-Sinai's impact on human health and wellbeing here and far beyond Los Angeles. We are humbled to play a role in their long tradition of saving lives and serving our community."
Eric Smidt, Harbor Freight Tools

"Cedars-Sinai cardiologists are pioneers in this field, and the heart institute is one of the world leaders when it comes to modern heart medicine—and it's in our own backyard," he said. "It's important to support outstanding local institutions, and we want to help amplify Cedars-Sinai's impact on human health and wellbeing here and far beyond Los Angeles. We are humbled to play a role in their long tradition of saving lives and serving our community."

The gift to Cedars-Sinai is the couple's largest to date. The Smidt Foundation supports organizations dedicated to excellence in education, medical research, the arts, veterans' affairs, disaster relief and first responders. The couple funded Alliance Susan and Eric Smidt Technology High, a charter school in Los Angeles, and they are longtime supporters of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Eric Smidt created and funds Harbor Freight Tools for Schools to support the advancement of skilled trades education in U.S. public high schools. The program funds the annual Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence, which in 2017 awarded more than $500,000 to outstanding skilled trades teachers and public high school programs across the U.S.

"This extraordinary gift is heartfelt in every way and stands as a wonderful testament to the enduring impact of our globally respected heart institute on the lives of so many patients," said Shlomo Melmed, MD, executive vice president of Academic Affairs and dean of the Cedars-Sinai medical faculty. "This generous gift is the most admirable recognition of our talented physicians and scientists who have dedicated themselves to creating one of the world's leading institutes of cardiac clinical care and creative scholarly achievement."

Eduardo Marbán, MD, PhD, director of the Smidt Heart Institute, said the gift ensures that Cedars-Sinai will continue its tradition of innovation and discovery, which dates back to 1924, when Los Angeles' first electrocardiogram machine was installed.

"Eric and Susan Smidt's generous gift will have an enormously positive impact on our ability to provide the best cardiac care possible to our patients," Marbán said. "We are deeply grateful for their visionary support, which will cement the reputation of the Smidt Heart Institute as the leading resource for all aspects of cardiology and cardiovascular surgery."

Added Marc H. Rapaport, chair of the Cedars-Sinai Board of Directors: "The future of heart care is here. The Smidts have ensured that Cedars-Sinai will continue to have a positive impact on the health of our community and beyond."