Posted on 11/05/2022
Michael Donnino, MD, and Sarah Perman, MD, present award to Ward Hamilton
Michael Donnino, MD, and Sarah Perman, MD, present award to Ward Hamilton

The ReSS Champion Award recognizes an individual who has demonstrated commitment to the field of resuscitation science, through championing research and/or clinical improvements, supporting resuscitation scholars, and serving as a passionate advocate for our field. This award is designated for an individual who is not a full-time healthcare professional (not a physician, nurse or paramedic) but rather someone who supports our field through their work in government, industry or public advocacy. 

Ward Hamilton, president of the ZOLL Foundation, was recognized as the American Heart Association 2022 Resuscitation Champion of the Year at the AHA Resuscitation Science Symposium in Chicago on November 5th. He also serves on the Board of Directors of the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation and the Citizen CPR Foundation.

Hamilton thanked the AHA and his colleagues over the years, many of whom were Resuscitation Giants. “Thank you to all of you who I know, who have I learned from, and worked with, over my career. My thanks for the generosity you’ve shown me is beyond words.”

He noted his career path differs from many of those in the audience—primarily scientific researchers. While he has had patient care experience, he said, he does not have an academic background. 

Hamilton got involved in CPR and ambulances before CPR was first described in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, in 1960. He worked through his undergraduate years during the summer and breaks in Paterson, NJ, as an auxiliary firefighter and ambulance attendant. He graduated with a BA in political science from Hartwick College.

After college, he joined the army and served in Viet Nam. When he came home, he was convinced there was value in further education. Expecting to pursue a career in the fire service, he graduated with a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Southern California.

Next, he trained as a Los Angeles County MICU Paramedic and taught EMTs, firefighters, nurses, and police at Pasadena City College. Later, he worked at Datascope and Laerdal Medical, eventually beginning a 25-year career at ZOLL Medical. He joined the company in 1992 as Vice President of Marketing and retired as Senior Vice President in 2017.

“With ZOLL’s success and as I neared retirement, my colleague, Rick Packer, and I saw the same need and opportunity—to do something to advance the field and ‘pay it forward,’” said Hamilton. “That’s when we created the ZOLL Foundation, which is dedicated to providing grants to young investigators focused on resuscitation and critical care.” 

Hamilton then reflected on recent progress. “We save one patient at a time and over my career the difference is stellar, we just have a lot more to do.” But there are hopeful signs, he said.

  • Lifevest has been worn by 900,000 patients with a 2.6% overall incidence of VT/VF. At 90% one-year survival that’s 21,060 survivors.
  • Five members of the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation Board of Directors are SCD survivors another five survivors are on the Advisory Council.
  • Last year he received a letter from the president of the high school his sons attended, stating that a teacher had been saved by staff using one of the AEDs he and his wife had donated to the school about 22 years ago.
  • About two weeks ago at ZOLL, a production employee was saved by coworkers who were part of an emergency response team.  

In closing, Hamilton thanked his late wife Lorraine, “the real Resuscitation Champion to whom I owe this award. She supported me in all my endeavors for our 48 years together married, and even before. She was a very accomplished Critical Care and Emergency Nurse. She was an AHA volunteer. Over the course of our lives together we often helped where we could and did CPR together more than half a dozen times on strangers. Our last work together clinically was in Quito Ecuador with Medical Missions for Children, a charity we support, where we both helped with surgery on over 85 children.  

On a final note, in April of this year, Hamilton had an audience with Pope Francis. “I asked the Pope to put in a good word for all of us who work in resuscitation. God knows we can use it. Thank you and God bless you all.”