Repaying It Forward

Being a recipient of aid motivates one man's desire to give back to the community.

Dr. W.H. Wilson Tang studies the mechanisms of heart disease. | Photo: Matt Kohlmann

After a heart-related issue brought Bill Wortzman to Cleveland Clinic for a second opinion, he found himself having open heart surgery just days later.

Senior man smiling in front of greenery wearing blue gingham button up shirt

Bill Wortzman

Since then, he has been under the care of world-renowned cardiologist W.H. Wilson Tang, MD, who also has become a dear friend.

Dr. Tang is a clinician-scientist whose research investigates the mechanisms of heart disease, specifically heart failure and cardiomyopathy, a disease that affects the heart muscle. He and his team are uncovering what exactly makes these diseases progress, with the goal of finding ways to ultimately prevent them.

To support Dr. Tang’s work, Wortzman has made outright gifts and estate gifts. He also is leading a matching gift campaign to draw new donors to the cause.

“While we have avenues to obtain external grant funding, we often need seed funding to show proof of concept,” Dr. Tang says. “Philanthropic funding helps us bring data to the bench to problem-solve, resulting in unique ideas that potentially have therapeutic benefits, which is awesome.”

Wortzman’s generosity is driven not only by the lifesaving care he has received at Cleveland Clinic, but by the promise that research will lead to discoveries that help others with heart-related conditions.The importance of giving back was instilled in him by firsthand experience. “I grew up living in the projects with my mother,” he says. “We didn’t have any resources. We were very fortunate to have several charities that helped us … when we didn’t have anything. So I feel obligated to the community to repay that obligation through my charitable work.”

In addition to serving on the boards of several organizations, Wortzman is a self-taught day trader — a skill he learned for the sole purpose of raising money for charity. He hopes his legacy will be his commitment to helping others.

“At the end of the day,” he says, “making gifts is probably as rewarding as anything I do.”