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Herma Heart Institute

Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin completes $8 million challenge to improve care for kids with congenital heart conditions

Total gifts of $16 million to fund research and clinical innovation at newly designated Herma Heart Institute


Children’s Wisconsin announced today that it has successfully completed an $8 million challenge from the Herma family to benefit the hospital’s Herma Heart Center, which has ranked in the top 10 in U.S. News & World Report’s list of best pediatric cardiology programs for the past four years. The $16 million raised from the Herma Heart Challenge since April 2017 will support research and clinical innovation with a focus on eradicating congenital heart conditions and revolutionizing programs designed to improve the quality of life for heart patients and their families. Congenital heart disease is the number one birth defect in children. 

In recognition of the Herma Heart Center’s sustained clinical excellence, research generation and philanthropic support, Children’s is designating it the Herma Heart Institute — the first such clinical institute at the hospital. In order to receive the Institute designation, service lines must meet nationally accepted benchmarks in clinical outcomes, patient care quality, education and outreach, philanthropy, and research and innovation. The Herma Heart Institute’s new designation was revealed at a celebration at the hospital for donors and patient families, which was attended by the Hermas. 

“John and Susan Herma’s challenge gift inspired hundreds of individuals and organizations to match their $8 million challenge, months ahead of our deadline,” said Peggy Troy, president and CEO of Children’s Wisconsin. “But their impact goes beyond that. The intentional and sustained gifts from the Herma family has allowed for incremental and strategic growth to Children’s heart program the past 30 years. Individually, their gifts either improved clinical outcomes, supported patient care or improved the quality of life of survivors. Collectively, over time, the gifts helped Children’s transform heart care not only in Wisconsin, but across the country. Their support, partnered with amazing providers and researchers, have made the Herma Heart Institute possible, and ultimately has saved and improved the lives of thousands of children.” 

Over the past 30 years, Children’s pediatric cardiology cardiac program has grown from a regional service line to a world-class program pioneering advancements in surgical outcomes, thanks in large part to the transformational philanthropic support of the Hermas. They became involved with the heart program at Children’s in the 1980s when they lost their infant daughter, Leigh, to a complex congenital heart disease. Inspired by the compassionate care they received and determined to reduce the number of families who lost a child from a congenital heart defect, the Hermas began to give back. 

Since then, the Herma family has made multiple gifts that have supported the transformation and growth of Children’s heart program. Earlier gifts helped purchase cutting-edge medical devices, including an ECMO machine. Later gifts supported a reorganization of doctors and providers to better serve patient families and to eventually build a physical space that brought the providers all together. More recent gifts, including their latest $8 million challenge, has allowed Children’s to advance research and innovation aimed at improving the quality of life of heart patients and eradicating congenital heart defects. In total, the family has contributed more than $25 million to Children’s Wisconsin. 

“Today, we celebrated not only the completion of our challenge gift, but just as importantly, Children’s long-term commitment to further advancements in care and quality of life for children with congenital heart defects,” said John and Susan Herma. “When our daughter Leigh was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome 30 years ago, only 10% of infants with her diagnosis survived. It was the Herma Heart program that revolutionized the treatment in the 1990s through research and clinical innovation, and today Children’s continues to have the best peer reviewed published survival rates for children with this condition. Our goal is to continue these groundbreaking advancements through research and philanthropic support, and we thank everyone who has contributed to making this dream a reality.” 

The Herma Heart Institute at Children’s Wisconsin is one of the largest pediatric heart programs in the country, performing more than 650 heart procedures a year with some of the best outcomes in the world. Doctors, caregivers and researchers at the Institute have led improvements in fetal and pediatric heart care by: 

  • developing the nation’s first Home Monitoring Program, which has become a national care standard for babies who undergo certain types of heart surgery.
  • creating the country’s first Neurodevelopmental Follow-up Program to boost a child’s growth and development after heart surgery.
  • supporting the development of a less invasive blood test to detect if a patient is rejecting a donor heart.
  • researching the cause of bleeding and blood clots during surgery to develop processes to minimize those events.

“We were amazed at the response we received to the Herma’s generous challenge, and we’re not stopping here. Children’s will continue our fundraising efforts for the Herma Heart Institute with a new goal to raise an additional $11 million over the next five years to further advance care for kids with congenital heart defects,” announced Meg Brzyski Nelson, president of Children’s Wisconsin Foundation. 

Individuals interested in supporting the Herma Heart Institute can visit or call the Children’s Wisconsin Foundation at (414) 266-6100.