The way Shirley Semler remembers it, the story starts when she and her husband, Herb Semler, MD ‘53, MS, met Dean Mark Richardson as guests at an OHSU luncheon. Brian Druker, MD, the Director of the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, was speaking. Shirley sat next to Dean Richardson and they spoke about many things, including Herb’s love for cardiology.
Dr. Semler is an internationally known Portland cardiologist and innovator of cardiovascular products, and interested in contributing to the growth of cardiology which he has pioneered for over 50 years. “I suspected back in 1953 when I graduated from OHSU that cardiology would become a big field, even though it was just in its infancy at that time”, he said. “It turned out that I was right, and everything that I have achieved, from patient care to business entrepreneurship, I learned from my teachers and patients.”
A close team, both personally and professionally, Shirley and Herb Semler’s lives have taken them to places as far afield as war zones in Korea during service with the USAF, patient care and research at the Mayo Clinic, and high-tech fabrication plants in Oregon. But a common thread has run through it all. “We’ve always tried to make things better for the patient,” said Dr. Semler.
One of his many inventions, a cardiac monitor that transmits readings over the phone to an ECG machine at a remotely situated physician’s office, was the first medical device to use the newest Intel microprocessor. “Someone has to take new technology and put them together in a non-invasive, practical way to help people live better,” said Dr. Semler. “That’s what Shirley and I love to do.”
The couple’s $2 million gift established the Shirley and Herbert Semler Cardiovascular Institute for Education and Prevention at OHSU. This was the eventual culmination of that lunchtime conversation with Dean Mark Richardson, and the gift was made in his honor. “This was Shirley’s idea”, said Dr. Semler. “Mark is a true leader in every way – an inspiration, brilliant, dedicated, a gifted physician and a person you can trust and rely on.”
“He is a ‘Doctor’s Doctor,’” said Shirley Semler, “who puts patient care as his number one priority.”
The Shirley and Herbert Semler Cardiovascular Institute for Education and Prevention will promote optimal cardiovascular health through education, prevention and cutting-edge research that will benefit Oregonians. It is led by Sanjiv Kaul, MD, Professor, Department of Medicine and Head of OHSU’s Division of Cardiovascular Medicine. Dr. Semler serves in an advisory capacity for the Institute. “The Semlers have made a visionary gift. We are privileged to work with donors with such deep knowledge and commitment,” said Dr. Kaul.
“We deeply appreciate the involvement and commitment of our alumni to the School of Medicine,” said Dean Richardson. “Shirley and Herb Semler clearly understand the important role that philanthropy plays in helping to support and foster the expertise of our exceptional faculty for the benefit of OHSU and Oregon.”
The Semlers continue to look for opportunities to create what they call “tools for medicine to help humankind."
An OHSU mentor once told Dr. Semler to “find out what you like to do, then do what you like. You’ll always be glad you did.” “We’ve been very lucky to be able to do that,” said Dr. Semler.
Pictured: Shirley and Herb Semler