From the strip of sand in front of his Newport Beach home, Pei-yuan Chia can see Hoag Hospital rising in the distance. It seems fitting. After all, it was Hoag physicians who pinpointed his ventricular tachycardia, destroyed the abnormal tissue causing it with radio frequency ablation, and sent him home with renewed hope. His three heart attacks now behind him, Pei-yuan, who generously gave $700,000 in grateful support of Dr. Neala Hunter and Hoag's Jeffrey M. Carlton Heart & Vascular Institute’s Center of Advanced Electrophysiology, couldn’t be happier. "Hoag Hospital probably saved my life," he said. "I’m very grateful."
Road to Success
Born in Hong Kong and reared in China and Taiwan, Pei-yuan earned a BA degree in economics at Tunghai University, Taiwan, and an MBA at the prestigious Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania. After graduate school, he remained in the U.S. and entered the business world in a big way, joining General Foods Corp. in New York as a brand management/marketing professional.
Nine years later, in 1974, he joined consumer banking innovator Citibank, where he would spend the next 22 years in various capacities. He retired as a Vice Chairman in 1996. Along the way - in 1965 - he wed his college sweetheart, Frances, who after 38 happy years of marriage and three children lost a courageous battle with ovarian cancer in 2003. Therein lies the impetus for his generous giving. "During that time I was a trustee for the New York University Medical Center, and that was my first close contact with the medical community, " Pei-yuan said. "When Frances was sick, we decided to establish the Chia Family Foundation to support medicine and education, with most of the activities now managed by my children, my sister and my current wife, Kitty. That is our channel for giving back following the successes I’ve experienced."
Some of those successes nearly didn’t come to pass. In 1987, Pei-yuan suffered a heart attack in New York City. A second, more serious one, followed five years later, prompting doctors to implant a small defibrillator pacemaker.
Sloan-Kettering Recommends Hoag
Pei-yuan eventually retired and moved to the West Coast, where he reconnected with - and in 2005 married - his high school sweetheart, Kitty. Needing a new cardiologist, he was referred to Hoag by the leadership at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. Hoag referred him to his current primary-care physician, James J. Berman, M.D., who, inturn, recommended that Pei-yuan receive care from cardiac electrophysiologist, Neala Hunter, M.D.
"Dr. Hunter is wonderful," Pei-yuan said. "She is very precise and very cautious, but she doesn’t try to scare you. She’s also very pleasant, very kind and very upbeat. And, she speaks with authority - I couldn’t be in better hands. "Kitty went a step further. "We’ve experienced many areas of the hospital, and not only is Dr. Hunter terrific, but the entire staff is," she said. "We love them all."
Getting Back in Rhythm
In August 2009, Dr. Hunter and Michael Panutich, M.D., an electrophysiologist on staff at Hoag's Carlton Heart & Vascular Institute, brought Pei-yuan to the EP lab for a mapping and ablation procedure. Dr.Panutich isolated scar tissue caused by one of Pei-yuan’s earlier heart attacks, tissue that appeared to be interrupting his normal heart beat. Acting with precision, he then used radio frequency ablation to destroy it.
Today, Pei-yuan’s arrhythmia appears to be gone. So grateful are he and Kitty that they decided to support the Carlton Heart & Vascular Institute by contributing toward the advancement of the electrophysiology program at Hoag. "We’re madly in love with Dr. Hunter," Kitty says. "This seemed like a great way to support the outstanding work of her and her team, and the hospital’s effort to move the Center of Advanced Electrophysiology to a higher level."
Delighted Patient, Wife Thank Hoag
Today, the Chias have a warm spot for Hoag, where Pei-yuan continues to be cared for by Dr. Hunter and her team. His generous contribution will help to make the electrophysiology program at the hospital a world-class one.
"It’s the people that make this hospital great," Pei-yuan said. "From the moment I walked through the doors I was treated with care, and that care never stopped."