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Life's a Celebration

Marjie & Bob Bennett Help Hoag Build the Hybrid ORLife

Throughout his life, Robert "Bob" Bennett has worked hard for his achievements. Still, he concedes that good timing and good fortune have played a role in the success that he and his wife, Marjie, have enjoyed. Consider that Bob joined the Army on VJ Day - the day that World War II ended. "The enemy heard I was coming and said, ‘That's it - we're through,' " he laughs.

While in the Army he joined the boxing team - then learned that a teammate was future heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano. Bob, who grew up interacting with comedian Bob Hope, one of his parents' closest friends, believed success would eventually find him. And, there's Marjie, his wife and partner in a successful six-decade marriage. Certainly, life has smiled upon the Bennetts, who recently gave a generous gift to Hoag.

Marriage Born at CBS

Bob was born in Pittsburgh, PA, and reared in Altoona, while Marjie was born and raised on a farm in Ipswich, SD. He attended USC and UCLA before their paths crossed while they both worked at CBS in Los Angeles. He was an usher, she a switchboard operator, and they were destined to meet.

"We met one day, dated for three years, and got married in 1950," beams Marjie. Admiring the 60 roses Bob had given her only days earlier she adds, "We just celebrated our 60th anniversary. That's quite an accomplishment!" Not content to remain an usher, Bob joined the sales department at KTTV television in Los Angeles in 1953. From there his ascent was steady. He rose to become vice president and director of sales, joined a Metromedia Broadcasting television station in Washington D.C. as general manager in 1965, then moved on to stations in New York and Boston. He eventually became president and part owner of Metromedia before retiring in 1986.

"I flunked retirement," he says, adding that he transferred Metromedia's headquarters to Los Angeles and dove in again. Bob, an Emmy and Peabody award winner, began successfully producing television shows, including National Geographic specials, before selling his interest to media mogul Rupert Murdoch, who turned it into the Fox Network. He also helped establish Bennett Productions, which is run by his son, Casey.

Blazing the Trail to Hybrid Surgery

Cardiac surgery has taken a quantum leap forward with the introduction of the Hybrid Operating Room (Hybrid OR). A new concept in delivering advanced patient care, the Hybrid OR combines the best elements of the operating room with state-of-the-art imaging technology necessary for interventional heart and vascular procedures.

Jacques Kpodonu, M.D., a member of the Hoag Heart & Vascular Institute (HHVI) surgical team, is one of just a handful of hybrid cardiac surgeons in the world trained as both a cardiovascular surgeon and an interventionalist who can combine highly advanced, minimally invasive interventional procedures with open surgical procedures.

A pioneer in the field of cardiac hybrid surgery, Dr. Kpodonu is grateful to Marjie and Bob Bennett, and other community members, for donating the funds to build a Hybrid OR at Hoag. "This will shape the future of the specialty," says Dr. Kpodonu. "Combining first rate imaging capabilities with an operating room gives us unprecedented flexibility in real time to do what's best for the patient. It's also a tremendous opportunity to adapt things we know today into the minimally invasive procedures of tomorrow."

"We are very excited about the potential of the Hybrid OR to revolutionize the way we treat patients by integrating traditional cardiac surgery with endovascular surgery techniques and technology," says Aidan Raney, M.D., F.A.C.C., medical director of cardiovascular surgery at HHVI and Pamela & Jim Muzzy Endowed Chair. "This truly bridges the best of what we do today with the latest advances in our quickly evolving field."

The addition of the Hybrid OR is part of the exciting plan to upgrade and expand HHVI facilities and equipment. The expansion includes designating the exterior south entrance of Hoag Hospital Newport Beach as the "front door" of HHVI.

If you would like additional information on supporting Jeffrey M. Carlton Heart & Vascular Institute, please contact Angie Salicrup, Director of Development, at (949) 764-7210 or angie.salicrup@hoag.org.

While Bob was busy making his mark in the business world, Marjie devoted herself to creating a loving home that allowed Bob, Casey and daughter, Kelly to flourish.

Hoag in Sight

Along the way, Bob and Marjie settled in Newport Beach - within sight of the Hoag Newport Beach campus. Good thing. In 2005 Bob developed a blocked carotid artery, which required a carotid endartectomy. Three years later he underwent coronary artery bypass surgery at the hands of skilled cardiac surgeon, Dr. Douglas Zusman, during which a valve was also replaced. And in 2010, Hoag clinicians implanted a pacemaker to regulate Bob's slow heart rate.

"What could be more reassuring than to look out my window and see Hoag," adds Bob, whose 112-foot boat "Celebration," which the couple bought to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary, is also tethered within view of Hoag.

Their joy for living was keenly felt as they've traveled the world on the Celebration. "We've gone everywhere, and sometimes I don't want to get off," Marjie laughs, adding that they owe some of their joy to the care they've received from Hoag.

"My treatment at Hoag was fabulous, really fantastic. I've been very pleased with the hospital and with the excellent care they've given me. If you have serious health problems, or any kind of health problems, Hoag is the place to go," adds Bob.

Funding Enhanced Care

According to Bob, Hoag's overall facility, outstanding physicians, caring nurses, helpful support staff, and cutting-edge technology - the entire package - have all contributed to his successful stays at Hoag. "It's the people who really make a hospital," he says. "At Hoag, the doctors are excellent, and the nursing care is exceptionally good. Everything is outstanding."

So pleased were the Bennetts that they provided a $2 million contribution that is funding a hybrid operating room, which will enable diagnostic imaging and surgical procedures to be performed simultaneously in the same room. This will result in safer treatment, shorter hospital stays, faster recoveries and improved outcomes. In recognition of their generosity, Hoag has named the Robert M. &Marjie Bennett Advanced Cardiovascular Surgical Program.

"We're hoping this gift will help make these surgeries easier on people and ultimately save some lives," says Bob. "If it can do that, then Marjie and I will be very happy. We are fortunate to have a place like Hoag nearby. It's simply the best hospital around."

*In Memory of Bob Bennett

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