Baptist Health South Florida

Branson family, lively bidding on trip to outer space boost Baptist Health charity

February 13, 2014
“The Pulse of Innovation” benefit for Baptist Cardiac & Vascular Institute’s push for medical excellence brought $300,000 at live auction for a seat on Branson’s Virgin Galactic space plane.
MIAMI, Fla.  – Feb. 13, 2014 – Bids flew high at a lively charity auction today with a record bid on a seat to outer space on Virgin Galactic to benefit Baptist Cardiac & Vascular Institute’s $100 million building and technology expansion.
Virgin Galactic Founder Sir Richard Branson, in an unprecedented move, made available the $250,000 seat for auction in appreciation of the Institute’s doctors who performed a life saving treatment for his wife, Lady Joan Branson.
“I have been married 38 years and I hope to be married another 38 years. Today I am thanking Baptist Cardiac & Vascular Institute for saving my wife’s life,” Branson said.
Winning bidders were Constance and Mike Fernandez, who also were the hosts of one of the most exciting social events of the season at their Coral Gables Estates home. Tables on a terrace overlooking the bay were set for more than 70 guests, who paid $5,000 a seat to attend.
The Baptist Health South Florida Foundation presented the event under the leadership of committee chair Lourdes Jofré-Collett  and honorary chairs Rita Cabasés Goñi, Richard Cole, Karel Foti and Sofia and Mike Segal.
Barry T. Katzen, M.D., the Institute’s founder and medical director who has distinguished himself internationally as a leader in the development of interventional radiology, performed a life-saving cardiovascular treatment for Lady Joan who developed a blood clot while at the Branson home in the Caribbean. The team of doctors assisting with the procedure – James Benenati, M.D., and Alex Powell, M.D. – attended the event.
“We very much appreciate Richard and Joan’s support today, as the Institute embarks on an effort to develop a technologically innovative facility that will create a very unique environment here in Florida. We are very excited about the ability to align Sir Richard’s interest in innovation with the Institute’s commitment to innovation,” Dr. Katzen said.
“We are especially privileged to have the Bransons support the exciting future of Baptist Cardiac & Vascular Institute, and we are deeply appreciative of the generosity of so many who joined us for this incredible event,” said Brian E. Keeley, president and chief executive office of Baptist Health South Florida.
At Baptist Cardiac & Vascular Institute, world-renowned physicians are pioneers in less invasive techniques for treating aneurysms, stroke and heart disease, and they are international leaders in many groundbreaking research trials.
Among new programs planned by the Institute is a National Center for Aneurysm Therapy, a Center for Advanced Endovascular Therapy and a Center for Structural Heart Therapy. Most areas of the existing facility are under renovation, and four advanced endovascular procedure suites will be added.  Plans designed by HKS Architects call for a 60,000-square-foot addition and a 40,000-square-foot renovation.
The Institute’s global reputation as leaders in cardiovascular care has attracted many high-profile patients from around the world. In just the past few years, Branson is the second high-profile individual to donate support to the Institute, following performing artist and Grammy Award-winner Celine Dion. Ms. Dion gave a concert two years ago to a sellout audience at the Jackie Gleason Theater in gratitude for the life-saving procedure carried out on her husband, René Angélil, by Dr. Katzen.
It was announced this month that the premier flight on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo will be in April. Sir Richard and his children, Holly and Sam, will travel into space as the first private passengers. More than 680 passengers have each made a $250,000 down payment to Virgin Galactic’s space plane, which will take off from the company’s “spaceport” in New Mexico. It will climb to a planned altitude of 71,000 feet to the upper edges of the atmosphere where travelers will experience weightlessness.
Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute is part of Baptist Health South Florida, the largest faith-based, not-for-profit healthcare organization in the region. It also includes Baptist Hospital, Baptist Children’s Hospital, South Miami Hospital, Doctors Hospital, West Kendall Baptist Hospital, Homestead Hospital, Mariners Hospital, Baptist Outpatient Services and Baptist Health Medical Group.
Baptist Health South Florida Foundation is the fundraising arm of Baptist Health South Florida.  The Foundation supports services at all hospitals and facilities affiliated with Baptist Health. For more information, visit and connect with BaptistHealthSF on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.


Contact: Melissa Lichtenheld, 305-372-1234;; Wragg & Casas Public Relations

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Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute

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