Evslin Family Pledges $1 Million For Heart Research

July 26, 2012

Michael Carrese
Marketing and Communications



“Angel” Organization Formed to Encourage Similar Giving


(BURLINGTON, VT)  Fletcher Allen Health Care announced today it is receiving a $1,000,000 performance grant from Tom and Mary Evslin of Stowe to support research into improving treatment for atrial fibrillation (AF), a common type of rapid heartbeat.  The creation of a “Cardiovascular Angel Club” to encourage similar philanthropy was also announced.

Approximately 5.5 million Americans suffer from AF which increases their risk for stroke and death.  For the majority of these patients, medications do not provide a cure.  The most common alternative is a procedure called catheter ablation that uses targeted application of heat to change how electricity flows through the heart.  Unfortunately, this approach has a relatively low success rate compared to ablations performed to treat other heart rhythm disorders.

The goal of the research project, led by Peter Spector, MD director of Cardiac Electrophysiology at Fletcher Allen and a professor at the UVM College of Medicine, is to use information from CT scans and recordings of the heart’s electrical activity to design patient-specific ablation therapy which is expected to significantly increase the rate of cure.

“With this gift, the Evslins are providing a remarkable level of support for one of the core missions of Fletcher Allen: advancing the field of medicine through research,” said John Brumsted, MD, president and chief executive officer of Fletcher Allen Health Care.  “I know from personal experience that Dr. Spector and his colleagues have established one of the leading electrophysiology programs in the nation, and this research has the potential to significantly advance their capabilities to the benefit of patients everywhere. I thank the Evslins for their generosity and the faith in the quality of our research programs that this gift represents.”

The Evslins became aware of Dr. Spector’s research through David Schneider, MD, director of Cardiology at Fletcher Allen and a professor at the UVM College of Medicine, who they had met while heart patients at Fletcher Allen.

“Our introduction to Dr. Schneider after the excellent care I received last summer opened our eyes to the cutting-edge medical research being done here,” said Tom Evslin.  “He explained how revolutionary some of the research is and how difficult it is to get funding for this type of work in its early stages. Dr. Schneider also explained how the research “stars” at Fletcher Allen and UVM attract other researchers who want to be part of their teams and learn from them.  As a result of those stars, we have a world class cardiac research center in Burlington that we want to keep.  The Cardiovascular Angel Club is one way to raise the visibility of this research and to encourage investment in this type of work.”

The Club is an informal group with a mission to encourage Vermont philanthropists to provide funding for research projects that may not be likely to receive government or corporate support particularly because they take an aggressive approach. 

Following the model that resulted in the Evslins’ pledge, the Club will meet twice a year with top cardiology researchers who will share the details of their work with members as a general educational session, and with the hope that some or all of the projects will generate donations. (For details see attached summary).  

“Having benefitted from leading-edge health care at Fletcher Allen and having worked in the high tech world for years, Tom and I understand the importance of innovation,” said Mary Evslin.  “We are looking for people to join the Club who understand that early stage research is not always a safe bet, but nevertheless are motivated to help new thinking reach a point where it makes a huge difference.”

“Economic constraints have severely limited investment in medical research during the past few years, particularly from government sources,” said Dr. Schneider. “That’s why it is critical to receive support from private donors like the Evslins, and why I’m so grateful for their leadership in forming the Cardiovascular Angel Club. I look forward to working with the Club to sustain and advance high-quality cardiology care for everyone in our region. ”

“Atrial fibrillation creates an enormous burden on patients and the health care system, so it’s very important to improve treatments for it,” said Dr. Spector.  “We think the key is to develop better mapping of electrical activity in each patient’s heart during AF - something that is currently very difficult to do.  With better mapping will come better targeting of the spots that need to be addressed, ultimately resulting in better outcomes for our patients.  I’m deeply grateful to the Evslins for believing in the potential of this research, and for their incredible generosity.”

The $1 million will be provided in $250,000 increments over four years as benchmarks are met for both scientific and clinical aspects of the project. 

More Information

For details on the performance grant, research project, Cardiovascular Angel Club and to see video interviews with Tom Evslin and Dr. Spector visit www.fletcherallen.org/Angel 

About the Cardiovascular Angel Club

The Cardiovascular Angel Club is an informal group created to encourage private investment in cardiology research at Fletcher Allen Health Care and the University of Vermont College of Medicine. The focus will be on proposals that are unlikely to receive government or corporate assistance because they are in the early stages of development or because they are taking an aggressive approach.

The Club is modeled on the way “angel” investing works in the high-tech sector. Twice a year, several researchers will present their projects to Club members.  If there is interest expressed in any proposals, follow-up sessions will be held to allow potential investors to learn more. There are no requirements for participants to make donations.

In addition to advancing medical knowledge and treatments, it is hoped that the Club’s activities will help in the recruitment and retention of top cardiologists and will advance Fletcher Allen’s leadership as an academic medical center.

Tom and Mary Evslin of Stowe and David Schneider, MD, director of Cardiology at Fletcher are the co-chairs. The next meeting will be held September 12, 2012. 

To learn more visit www.fletcherallen.org/Angel  or contact Natalie J. Fleischman, vice president for Development at (802) 847-5566 or Natalie.Fleischman@vtmednet.org

About Tom Evslin

Tom Evslin is co-founder of NG Advantage LLC, a newly formed company bringing compressed natural gas to businesses not located on a pipeline. He was founder and CEO of ITXC Corp., which grew from a startup in 1997 to the world's leading provider of wholesale VoIP.  Before founding ITXC, he conceived, launched, and ran AT&T's first Internet Service Provider, AT&T WorldNet Service.

In the 1970’s and 80’s Tom founded and managed Solutions, Inc., a Vermont-based company that developed the first electronic transfer of funds software for banks and was the first developer of commercial communications software for the Macintosh.  After Microsoft acquired key assets of Solutions, Inc., Tom went to work for the technology giant where he was responsible for Microsoft Exchange and Outlook.

Since returning to Vermont after the sale of ITXC, Tom has served on the boards of the Vermont Telecommunications Authority and the Vermont Clean Energy Development Fund.  Recently he volunteered to be Chief Technology Officer for the State of Vermont and also served as Chief Recovery Officer making him responsible for coordinating use of federal stimulus funds.  In the 1980s, Tom was Secretary of the Vermont Agency of Transportation and on Governor Richard Snelling’s Council of Economic Advisors.

He is currently on the board of the Stowe Electric Department and of Feedblitz LLC.

About Mary Evslin

Mary Evslin is co-founder of NG Advantage LLC.  She was a founder and vice president of Marketing and Customer Success at ITXC where she developed and lead the company’s global marketing and public relations efforts from start-up stage, through IPO and secondary offering. Prior to ITXC, Mary worked at Attachmate Software in Seattle, Washington and served as vice president of Marketing at Solutions Inc., a Vermont PC and Macintosh software developer and retailer.

Earlier in her career she worked in the Vermont office of U.S. Representative Jim Jeffords, and at the non-profit organization Vermont Dental Care.

She is on the Board of Trustees of Champlain College and was the first chair of the Board of Directors of the Vermont Telecommunications Authority.