YOUNGSTOWN - Hundreds of guests turned out for Saturday's 2014 Tri-County Heart Ball at Stambaugh Auditorium to honor the work of cardiologists in the Mahoning Valley, including one doctor from Warren.
The event, in conjunction with the American Heart Association, honors three local cardiologists each year for their leadership in the field.
This year's honorees were Dr. Wahoub M. Hout, chief section of cardiology at St. Elizabeth Health Center in Youngstown; Dr. Joseph Graziano, cardiologist at Northside Medical Center, Youngstown; and Dr. Sudhakar V. Rao of Warren, a professor at Northeast Ohio Medical University in Rootstown and at Ross University School of Medicine, DeVry Education Group.
"This is a special night," Hout said as the proceedings were about to begin.
Hout, an interventional cardiologist, mainly treats patients suffering cardiac arrest.
"When someone comes in with a heart attack and we are able to use a catheter and open the artery that is causing the heart attack and successfully complete the process, it is so extremely rewarding.
Graziano agreed, noting that his day-to-day grind can be stressful, but he is constantly reminded how fortunate he is to be in a position to help so many people.
"So many of my patients, I grow an attachment to and a fondness for them," Graziano said. "I was at the Cleveland Clinic before and the thing that I like about (Northside) is the continuity to see patients after surgery, after their hospitalization is over. We get to see them back in the office with such a new perspective on life.
"I'm very flattered and honored to be recognized because so many days I go to work, and one of the nicest parts of what I do is being able to interact with patients," he said.
Tickets for the Heart Ball were $150 per person, with all proceeds benefiting heart research. The event also included a live and silent auction, dinner, dancing and an "Open Your Heart" appeal for pediatric cardiac research.
The 2014 Open Your Heart appeal shared the story of a local survivor, Emmet Erb, 4, of Poland, who was born with a congenital heart defect and underwent open-heart surgery when he was 3 months old. Erb is the son of Joy and Jason Erb.
Congenital heart defects are the leading cause of death from birth defects early in life and nearly 32,000 babies are born with a heart defect each year, the AHA reports.
According to the Heart Ball co-chair Mariann Pacak, virtually everyone's life has been touched by heart disease, which is what makes the research so vital.
"My husband is a heart disease survivor and his mom died of a heart attack, and my grandfather died of a heart attack," Pacak said. "Heart disease is in our family and I'm very committed to continue to support the research that goes into helping us know how to prevent heart attacks to begin with and to treat them in the even that they do happen."