“Physician, heal thyself.” This biblical proverb is a fitting parallel to the patient care experienced by Dr. David Hill. As a graduate of University of Wisconsin Medical School, Madison, a surgery resident with the University of Florida College of Medicine, a U.S. Army Medical Corps physician, and an ENT surgeon in private practice for 34 years in St. Petersburg, David’s experience as a patient came with extensive understanding of medical practice problems and how to solve them.
In 1992, David was diagnosed with paroxysmal fibrillation, and was hospitalized on four separate occasions at UF Health Shands Hospital. It was there that he became a patient of Thomas Burkart, M.D., a cardiovascular disease physician. Despite a two-plus hour drive from his home in St. Petersburg, David and his wife, Sarah Hill, continue a 25-year tradition of returning to UF Health for their care – in large part because of the continued success of David’s treatment.
David’s diagnosis came at age 58. His treatment included medication to control his heart rate and regularity, in addition to six ablations – a procedure that scars heart tissue where irregular beats are triggered – over a span of four years by Dr. Burkart.
“I needed higher level work than what was being done here in St. Petersburg,” he said. “If there was an unexpected, unanticipated problem that needs additional work, it’s available on-site.”
The most positive outcome came after David’s final ablation in 2015. Since that time, he has enjoyed a normal heart rate and total freedom from arrhythmia.
Now at 80, David and his wife, Sarah, are enjoying the newest chapter in their lives: planned giving to support UF Health. He and Sarah said it was a “no-brainer” once they decided to make a significant gift to support the electrophysiology fellow and resident program at the UF College of Medicine.
David and Sarah considered many charities with which to establish their legacy. After careful consideration, they decided that David had benefitted most from UF College of Medicine and UF Health Shands Hospital— both as a surgical resident and as a patient. “I thought, better to do bigger at one place than smaller at several others.”
Dr. Burkart connected David and Sarah with planned giving professionals at the UF Health Office of Development. After a few discussions, David and Sarah toured new facilities at UF Health and learned from Dr. Burkart about the programmatic needs.
David was most inspired by the immediate funding need for residents and fellows’ teaching programs.
Because David and Sarah wanted to give in a way that made an immediate impact, they structured a planned gift that will benefit those physicians, residents and fellows they know now, as well as provide for the future.
The Hills credit David’s good health to UF Health and Dr. Burkart. They have traveled extensively, including mission trips to Peru, Cuba and the Middle East. David has completed numerous triathlons and continues to cycle, swim and ski.
“My best days since diagnosis include road biking, spin classes at the YMCA, swimming, and independent travel in Iran, Cuba, Switzerland, Turkey, Syria, Jordan and Israel without worry of complications like an embolic stroke,” David said.
Both David and Sarah want the technology and treatment he has benefitted from available to others, which they hope to achieve by supporting the education of residents and fellows through their gift.
“David probably wouldn’t be here without those efforts at the University of Florida,” Sarah said. “And we haven’t looked back. We are totally convinced that this is a nice way to give—while you’re here to see the results. Why not?”