Dr. J. Louis Heller founded the anesthesiology department at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai (NYEE) in 1952 and served as Chief of the department for 40 years until 1992. Dr. Heller’s dedication during his extraordinary career touched the lives of countless patients, families, students, residents, and colleagues.
During their lifetimes, the Hellers established an estate plan directing their support to NYEE—which is among the world’s leading facilities for treating diseases of the eyes, ears, nose, and throat and is home to breakthrough clinical research that has introduced now widely practiced diagnostic and surgical techniques. After Dr. Heller’s passing in 1993, his beloved wife, Lydia Charlotte Heller, continued her association with NYEE for many years; upon her passing in 2017, Lydia left a generous gift to the institution from their estate.
“Lou was an unflappable kind of guy, very hard-working, good judgment, could relate to anyone, hired excellent people,” says Dr. Tom Muldoon, a retired NYEE ophthalmologist who worked with Dr. Heller for more than 20 years. “He was extremely skillful personally; whenever there was a difficult case, I would say, ‘Get Lou, get Lou.’ And he was very innovative: At one point most eye surgery was done on local anesthesia, but then it began to require general anesthesia—and, of course, he was in charge of that.”
Friends close to the Hellers recalled that Lydia knew her husband helped many people in his career, and she wanted to keep helping them. She had a special place in her heart for all of the children her husband had cared for at NYEE.
“Louie was a gentle soul with a sweetness and kindness that radiated from him, while Lydia was a true force of nature,” says niece Judy Moonelis. “They both loved children and paid special attention to the children around them. It’s just like them to help the Hospital in this way.”
A moment to remember
To honor their legacy, a ceremony was held in June recognizing the Hellers’ generosity with a naming dedication of The Lydia C. and J. Louis Heller, MD, Post Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU). Staffed by an exceptional team of physicians, nurses, and attendants, the PACU serves adult and pediatric patients following surgery and includes 18 bays equipped with advanced technology and monitoring systems.
Friends and family gathered with hospital leadership to pay special tribute to the lives of these two individuals who gave so much of themselves to the Institution and continue to do so with the generosity of their gift.
Speaking to those in attendance, James C. Tsai, MD, President of NYEE and Chair of the Department of Ophthalmology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, noted, “We are pleased and proud to recognize and remember Lydia and Louis with this tribute that will be a perpetual reminder of their kindness, generosity, and commitment to NYEE’s core mission of meeting the eye care needs of New Yorkers, especially the working poor.”
The generous gift of the Hellers establishes their legacy and will have a long-standing impact at NYEE.
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