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The Beat Goes On

Celebrating its ruby anniversary, The Sweetheart Ball builds on its decades long support of cardiology research

By the end of this story, your heart will beat at least a hundred times, pumping more than a gallon of blood through 60,000 miles of vessels just to keep you alive.

And you won’t even notice. That’s the power of small things compounding over time. Little by little, they accomplish big things.

It’s the same for a special group of Dallas women – sweethearts, really – and what they continue to do for UT Southwestern Medical Center. Each year, they host one of Dallas’ grandest evenings, The Sweetheart Ball. This April marked the 40th anniversary of the event and its support for UT Southwestern’s Division of Cardiology.

It’s an intimate affair. Only 250 make the guest list, no exceptions. Tight-knit, it’s about community – and making a difference. Over the years, the soiree’s philanthropic impact has exceeded $39 million, contributing substantially to heart disease research and establishing two endowed faculty chairs.

Leading this year’s event was The Sweetheart Ball’s Chairman Patty Huffines, who moved to Dallas and found place and purpose with the group. Like many members, she witnessed the effects of heart disease when her father survived a heart attack.

Patty Huffines
Patty Huffines

“Heart disease touches everyone. We all know a friend, family member – someone impacted by it – and we all know how precious life can be,” she said.

The organization was founded in 1981 when a group of 11 women lost a friend to a heart attack. From the beginning, they focused on supporting cardiology research at UT Southwestern and held the first ball in 1982.

“Heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death in the U.S. and globally,” said UT Southwestern President Daniel K. Podolsky, M.D. “Because of the sustained generosity of The Sweetheart Ball, UT Southwestern continues to advance our understanding of the human heart and provide exceptional care for patients, building our momentum as a leader in the field.”

“It’s a chance to celebrate life, celebrate community, and celebrate what makes Dallas such a great place to live.”

In July, U.S. News & World Report ranked UT Southwestern second in Texas and No. 14 among national cardiology programs. The Division’s faculty continue to lead the world’s top academic journal on the heart, and this past year the Medical Center added the talents of 16 leading cardiologists and scientists to its ranks. They’re the latest in a string of successes that have been building over decades, like the ball itself.

For Mrs. Huffines, the group’s dedication is driven by two things – the continued growth that The Sweetheart Ball sees at the institution and the fact that “they trust UT Southwestern.”

Which is why decades later, these women aren’t missing a beat. They know that by investing in heart research at UT Southwestern, they’re making a difference for their loved ones and for families across North Texas and beyond.

And even though she won’t be hosting, Mrs. Huffines can’t wait for next year’s ball. Like many in the group, she hasn’t missed one in years, because “it’s a chance to celebrate life, celebrate community, and celebrate what makes Dallas such a great place to live.”

Dr. Podolsky holds the Philip O’Bryan Montgomery, Jr., M.D. Distinguished Presidential Chair in Academic Administration, and the Doris and Bryan Wildenthal Distinguished Chair in Medical Science.