ALBANY — Mike Willsey noticed the name “Lewis Britton” on the license of a customer at his U-Haul business in the Southern Tier, and asked if he was related to Lew Britton, the surgeon in Albany. When the customer told him it was his father, Willsey pulled out a photo he carries of his now-35-year-old daughter. In the photo, Dr. Lewis Britton III is holding Samantha Willsey, not yet 1 year old, after Dr. Britton had repaired her two congenital heart defects.
On Friday, June 10, at 5:30 p.m., at the Albany Capital Center, during the VIP reception of the Capital Region Heart Ball, Willsey and Dr. Britton met again for the first time in 35 years.
Dr. Britton received the Donald Led Duke Heart Hero Award at the Heart Ball, for the countless number of lives he saved in his 43 years as a surgeon. Britton is the retired chief of the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Albany Med.
“I am honored to receive this award from the American Heart Association,” Dr. Britton said. “Their research and education have helped make my work possible. It’s incredibly rewarding to see my patients years later, thriving.”
The Willsey women shared Samantha Willsey’s story during the evening. She was born with two congenital heart defects. Samantha was part of a group of Dr. Britton’s patients who presented him with his award.
Dennis P. McKenna, M.D., President and Chief Executive Officer of Albany Med Health System, chaired the Capital Region Heart Ball. 350 people attended – and the 98th birthday of the American Heart Association.
“The Capital Region Heart Ball gives us a chance to celebrate all we have accomplished over the past year,” Dr. McKenna said. “The American Heart Association continues to fund research in our area, and offer programs to help reduce health disparities everywhere. I’ve worked with a dedicated group of executives to make the Heart Ball possible. As we celebrate the 98th birthday of the American Heart Association, we can be confident that we are leaving a legacy of continuing improvements in cardiovascular health.”
James J. Barba, president emeritus of Albany Med, received the American Heart Association’s “Moving Our Mission” award, for his work in the community, and especially with the local American Heart Association.
The Executive Leadership Team that worked with Dr. McKenna on the Heart Ball included Dr. John Bennett, CDPHP; Michael Castellana, SEFCU; Peter Connolly, Mercedes Benz Center at; Keeler Motor Car Company; David Cornell, Merrill/Bank of America; Robert Cushing, Trustco; Joe Nicolla, BBL/Columbia; John Nigro, Nigro Companies; Dan Pickett, Apti Health; and Peter Semenza, St. Peter’s Health Partners Foundation.