A Guy Named Joe
The Joe Namath Neurological Research Center is to become an integral part of the Jupiter Medical Center
By Carleton Varney
Way back in 1943, Metro Goldwyn Mayer released what was to become a classic film, A Guy Named Joe. The film is about a World War II bomber pilot played by Spencer Tracy who finds his end in an aerial attack after ordering his crew to safety. Tracy is then sent back from heaven as a guardian angel to a young pilot in his mission. Along with Tracy the film stars Irene Dunne and my good pal the late Van Johnson.
While the worlds of Tracy and Johnson are now in the classic archives, the world of our guy named Joe is becoming a most talked-about subject in Southern Florida, particularly by those associated with the Jupiter Medical Center. Our guy named Joe is Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Namath, a gentleman I have known and admired since he became an international star for the New York Jets. Yes, Joe in his green and white, always gave the fans a more than spectacular performance on the field. He was, is, and will always be a larger than life personality. Today Joe is working to make his name synonymous with cutting-edge clinical research, hope, and healing for those living with traumatic brain injuries.
The New York Plaza Gala To Honor Joe
The Joe Namath Neurological Research Center is to become an integral part of the Jupiter Medical Center. On the evening of October 21, 2016, the center is to honor our Joe at a gala dinner in the Plaza Hotel, New York City, with proceeds from the dinner to benefit traumatic brain injury patients at the Jupiter Medical Center. Those interested in any information about the Center should reach out to Tara Holcomb (561-263-3724 or firstname.lastname@example.org).
The Center is to be a place of healing for athletes who face neurological problems resulting from on-the-field sports competition, as well as those military men and women returning from combat, victims of automobile accidents, and stroke patients who suffer from the effects of what is know simply as TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury).
Joe’s Own Experience with Traumatic Brain Injury
Joe Namath is putting his name and his faith in searching for a treatment that will help those in need. Joe himself experienced medical difficulties when he approached Dr. Lee Fox, Chief of Radiology at JMC. Dr. Fox and a colleague at JMC in charge of the hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) program knew of this treatment for patients with injuries and diseases of the brain or head trauma. After being tested doctors believed that Joe was indeed suffering with TBI. Scans found areas of reduced blood flow to Joe’s brain, after which Dr. Barry Miskin, Vice Chief of Staff, designed an extensive series of HBOT treatments.
The results after one year – Joe was retested and found not only did the benefits of his treatment remain, but there was also no regression.
To quote Joe himself, “My thinking is much clearer. Finding the right words has become easier, and I remember events with more clarity. One of the great results is that my sleep has improved; I sleep more soundly and have vivid dreams. I now have more energy and strength – I feel great!”
And to honor Joe at the Plaza on October 20, I, who once spent some time decorating for Joe in his Manhattan town house residence, have created a design for the Plaza event all in fall colors. White, pumpkin, gold, leaf brown, and berry red. After all, isn’t October football time? Time for those big white and gold pom-poms, the ones ladies once attached to their warm jackets? Isn’t October the time for baskets filled with colorful autumn leaves and small gourd pumpkins carved out with just enough room for a votive candle? Just as a surgeon knows how important details are in their work, and just as Joe Namath knows that every moment and pass on the field is to be considered during play, I know how much I wish the Plaza gala honoring the guy I know with the name Joe should be perfection. For South Floridians, Jupiter Medical Center is striving to be the best of its kind.
Audrey Gruss and The Hope for Depression Research Foundation
By Ava Roosevelt
Being both European born, Audrey Gruss and I quickly became friends after we met in Wellington, Florida, years ago during her husband Martin’s polo-playing days. Audrey is a woman in charge. Her achievements in philanthropy are remarkable.
A graduate of Tufts University with a B.S. degree in biology, Audrey’s career flourished in the marketing world at Revlon, J.P. Stevens, and Elizabeth Arden. She co-founded the Terme di Saturnia skin care line for Saks Fifth Avenue. After marrying Martin Gruss, owner of the international high-goal Pegasus polo team, and owner of investment firm Gruss and Company, the couple created the Audrey and Martin Gruss Foundation.
Making a Difference
The Foundation has raised multimillions to fund projects in education and cultural arts worldwide, including the Inner-City Scholarship Fund, the Metropolitan Opera, Lincoln Center Theater, New York Botanical Garden, The Horticultural Society of New York, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Audrey and Martin Gruss Heart and Stroke Center.
In Palm Beach, Audrey is on the board of The Hospice Guild and joins me on the Board of the Palm Beach Preservation Foundation. She is a Founder of the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts and a member of the Benefactor’s Council of the Society of the Four Arts. And she helped raise $38 million toward a merger of Good Samaritan and St. Mary’s hospitals.
In Europe, Audrey serves on the American Friends of the Victoria & Albert Museum board in London, the International Council of the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris, and the Advisory Board of FAI, Italy’s leading architectural preservation group.
In 2006, Audrey called me about her newest focus, the Hope for Depression Research Foundation (HDRF), to find a cure for depression, which deeply affected her mother, Hope, whom I met on numerous occasions in Greenwich. She was a lovely lady.
Ava: Audrey, what were your mother’s first symptoms?
Audrey: My family and I don’t recall any sudden differences, but we noticed she slept much more, became withdrawn, didn’t want to go to social events and stopped smiling. My mother had a wonderful personality. She loved to sing, dance and write poetry. All that stopped.
Ava: What steps were taken to improve your mother’s condition?
Audrey: My mother was hospitalized, treated with electroconvulsive therapy and medication, such as tricyclics, but we weren’t told much. I consulted with my mother’s psychiatrist and several leading psychopharmacologists. I found there were no new medication categories since Prozac was introduced in 1985, and that only 50 percent of patients respond to existing SSRI-type medications. I saw the need for additional depression research funding.
When we held our first HDRF Luncheon Seminar, the word “depression” was scarcely spoken in public. Today, we have made good strides in raising awareness.
Ava: Please tell us about the importance of the Think Tank you founded.
Audrey: The neuroscience research process is glacially slow and bureaucratic. I wanted to form a working think tank. It took five years to engage key neuroscientists to collaborate in a Depression Task Force. Scientists today still do not know depression’s root causes. They are looking for underlying biological mechanisms. They have identified specific brain circuits and a handful of genes and molecules that might act as biomarkers for potential new medications.
Ava: What is the process to bring a new medication to market?
Audrey: There is no way I can be specific. The first part of the process is “Proof of concept” through laboratory “discovery research.” This can take years and millions in research grants at different universities. Then small clinical trials for 2-5 years before Phase I and Phase II FDA approval. Some existing medications have taken decades and cost tens of millions by the time they appear on pharmacy shelves. I certainly hope depression will ultimately become a disease of the past, but it will take many years and more research funding. We are the only research organization focusing solely on depression, and we need much more private funding to solve the complex mysteries of the brain. For more information, visit hopefordepression.org.
Changing the World One Gem at a Time
By Robin Jay
Giving back to help children in need is the personal mission of Beverly Hills’ Exceptional Jeweler Robert Procop and his leading ladies of the Silver Screen.
When South Florida Opulence was offered a private interview with jeweler-to-the-stars Robert Procop at Saks Fifth Avenue Dadeland, my heart skipped a beat. It’s not every day you get the honor of meeting such a man of achievement. Procop was the CEO of the Crown jeweler of the United Kingdom (Asprey & Garrard) who successfully turned around the most historic jewelry company in London, saving it from financial ruin; the man whose first presidential jewelry commission came from Ronald Reagan; the man who handcrafted the engagement ring of actress Angelina Jolie on request from Brad Pitt; or, perhaps most importantly, the man whose 30-year personal mission has been to support causes benefiting underprivileged children.
Toward this philanthropic effort, Robert designed the fanciful jewelry line for the blockbuster film Maleficent, donating proceeds of the line to Jolie’s charity Education Partnership for Children of Conflict. And, for The House of Ruth – an L.A. organization that provides a loving, safe home environment for families impacted by domestic violence, Robert has purchased two homes for the cause to date. Recently he partnered with actress Brooke Shields to create a line of jewelry called Legacy Brooke to further benefit The House of Ruth.
With such an impressive list of worldly accomplishments, I wondered what Robert, an A-lister himself, would be like in person during our interview. Would he be arrogant and aloof?
A Nice Surprise
Not in the slightest! When Robert entered the room, he was dressed in a suit with a white shirt, no tie. He offered a smile and warm handshake. He was kind and soft-spoken, seemed a bit shy and maybe a little nervous. I thought I’d start the interview with an icebreaker… “Robert?”
“Hamburgers or pizza?”
He paused, puzzled as to why I’d ask about food preferences – especially at 9 a.m. – when we were at Saks Fifth Avenue to talk about jewelry. Then, seeing the grin on my face, he laughed out loud – and then we all did. “Burgers for sure!” he said with a smile from ear to ear. From then on, we chatted like old friends catching up.
Strong Values, Character and Work Ethic
I was touched at Robert’s humble nature. How does he stay so well grounded when every venture he touches turns into gold? After speaking at length, the answer became clear: It was his solid family upbringing (“my family was always together”) that gave him an ingrained sense of strong moral character, integrity, humility, encouragement, confidence and entrepreneurship. Robert knew the path he wanted to take in life from a very early age.
“My Dad was an engineer and inventor,” Robert recalled. “He would say to me, ‘always work for yourself and sacrifice money to have independence – and follow your passion.’ ”
At 16, Robert took a job at a pawnshop. Being used to seeing things up close under a microscope at his father’s company, he quickly became consumed with the internal beauty of diamonds sold at the store. With a precocious business sense, he also picked up on the intrinsic value of precious gems as investments. He began buying and selling diamonds as a teenager. He was so successful at it that he earned and saved enough money not only to put himself through college, but also to open a jewelry store on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills the year prior to graduating.
Robert’s drive and pursuit of excellence in everything he does, while earning his own way, never seeking the spotlight, were easily apparent to those who met him. Word about the fine jeweler spread fast – to dignitaries, heads of state and, of course, celebrities, who commissioned his jewelry designs. Today, he travels the world, touring mines and honorable gem sources to find the most brilliant, valuable stones possible and then overseeing them processed, cut and polished at his firm’s location in Geneva. All the while, holding very near to his vest, a relentless desire to help others.
Robert’s voice cracked with emotion when he told me about a letter he received recently from a young lady in her 20s. It was a very special thank-you letter. In it, the young woman wrote that when she was a child, she lived with her mother at The House of Ruth. But it wasn’t until her 25th birthday when her mother confided in her a small secret – the reason they lived at The House of Ruth was because they had been homeless. All those years, the young girl had no idea. She had felt no shame, just genuine love. Recently, she graduated from college and had landed a fine job in her field. She attributes her success to the love, support and strong sense of family she received at The House of Ruth, and for that she would be ever grateful to Robert for his support.
“That,” he said with a tear in his eye, “is what makes life and hard work worthwhile.”
Miles of Smiles for Children on the Road to Recovery
“Even more special than driving some of my favorite dream cars was learning there are people who enjoy helping sick kids,” said young Joseph who, during the past year, has gone through two surgeries and rounds of chemotherapy. But Joseph got his groove back at Ride2Revive. “The event was so much fun,” he said.
Ride2Revive is a festival of fast cars, food and fun for young people facing cancer.
“This event is strictly for the kids,” said Brett David, 27-year-old CEO of Prestige Imports and Lamborghini Miami, which sponsors the festivity. Several years ago, Brett, his sister Brooke, 22, and their mother Valerie Kaye, launched the celebration to bring “miles of smiles” to children undergoing treatment at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital. This year, youngsters joined in from the local Chai Lifeline chapter. MyWish4U (Kids vs. Cancer) brought in children from Israel.
A mother’s perspective
“It’s super important to have an event like Ride2Revive that can take children’s minds off of what they are going through or have gone through,” said Beth Pinsky, mother of Aaron who was diagnosed at age 4 with Ewing’s sarcoma stage 4. “At Ride2Revive, it was a blast watching the kids playing with these life-sized toys.” The Pinsky family just visited Prestige Imports last week for the second time. Aaron’s favorite car is the Lamborghini.
Brett, Brooke and Valerie agree young people like Aaron and their families need a reprieve from their hospital surroundings. Riding in Lamborghinis and other supercars around a professionally laid-out track at the Mardi Gras Casino in Hallandale provides a thrilling day, as well as a sense of normalcy.
“We have a love for giving back to the kids,” said Brooke. “These supercars are intriguing and cool for kids to ride in. Through Ride2Revive, they can put their everyday struggles aside and be free. It’s rewarding to see them smiling from ear to ear. They don’t even want to leave.”
Children mingled with police and fire crews from Hallandale who brought cruisers, trucks, K-9 trackers and a SWAT team. The Broward County Sheriff’s helicopter flew in, joining face painters, balloons, arts and crafts and lots of food. “It keeps getting bigger and better each year,” said Valerie. Brooke added, “This is just the beginning of what we want to do to help the community.”
Joining in the yearly Ride2Revive are volunteers from the MPH Club; Gotham Dream Cars; Holy Bagels and Pizzeria; and the Miami Auto Museum at the Dezer Collection. Valerie says interacting with the children is priceless. “They ask so many questions. They want to know the make, year and cost of the cars and how fast they go.” Ride2Revive will be back in 2015 to bring more miles of smiles to children in South Florida.