Barton G’s Foundation Announces $5M Gift for UM Ear Institute

A name synonymous with some of the Miami area’s most elegant venues and memorable culinary experiences is now linked to one of the nation’s premier cochlear implant programs, at the Miller School of Medicine’s Ear Institute.

On Thursday, April 22, noted restaurateur Barton G. Weiss revealed that The Barton G. Kids Hear Now Foundation has committed $5 million to establish The Barton G. Kids Hear Now Cochlear Implant Family Resource Center.

Weiss made the announcement at the Clinical Research Building, during a morning news conference attended by UM President Donna E. Shalala, Miller School Dean Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., UM Ear Institute Director Thomas Balkany, M.D., and Miller School Department of Otolaryngology Chair Fred Telischi, M.D.

Weiss, whose Barton G. company is renowned for its event-management, restaurants, and off-site catering prowess, has a three-year-old daughter, Jadin, who was born unable to hear. Today, Jadin is not only hearing, but she converses in English and Spanish thanks to a cochlear implant procedure performed by Dr. Balkany.

“Three years ago my world was turned upside-down when my daughter was born profoundly deaf,” Weiss said. “It left me feeling helpless, overwhelmed and filled with fear. So today really is a dream come true.

“I am honored to help establish the Barton G. Kids Hear Now Cochlear Implant Family Resource Center,” Weiss said. “My hope is that this will allow all families, regardless of their social or economic background, to have a resource, as well as support.

“My deepest appreciation goes to Dr. Thomas Balkany, who was the surgeon who implanted my daughter – she’s a little chatterbox!” Weiss said to laughter from an audience of roughly 100 people that included many media representatives.

“It is a pleasure to be here today with my good friend Barton G. Weiss, a longtime supporter and friend of the University of Miami,” Shalala said. “Over the years, Barton has donated not only resources, but also his talent and time.

“Today he has taken that support a step further by making an incredible gift to the Miller School of Medicine.”

The goal of The Barton G. Kids Hear Now Foundation, which Weiss launched in 2008, is to have a direct impact on transitioning deaf children from an existence without sound to a hearing world, through the use of cochlear implant technology.

“When a child is born deaf, a cochlear implant can restore hearing and enable a child to develop normal speech, when the procedure is performed at the appropriate time,” Dean Goldschmidt said. “Barton G. Weiss knows firsthand what a parent faces when they learn their child is deaf, and that is why he formed The Barton G. Kids Hear Now Foundation — so no other parent will have to go through the process alone.”

Dr. Balkany noted that the UM Ear Institute will be celebrating its 20th anniversary in May. “May is better hearing and speech month, and now we really have something exciting to celebrate as well, and that’s the Family Resource Center, as presented by The Barton G. Kids Hear Now Foundation,” Balkany noted.

Another Balkany cochlear implant patient, Michael Lefkowitz, 14, keenly appreciated why the families of children eligible for implantation might find the Barton G. Kids Hear Now Family Resource Center uplifting.

“If parents find out that their child is deaf, they don’t have anywhere to go,” said Michael, an eighth-grader who is on his school’s debate team and wants to be a lawyer. The Barton G. Kids Hear Now Foundation Family Resource Center “will give people a guiding arm to help them through the process,” he added.

From a clinical standpoint, the Barton G. Kids Hear Now Foundation Family Resource Center will make additional auditory verbal therapists, audiologists and psychologists available to young cochlear implant patients, according to Department of Otolaryngology Chair Dr. Telischi.

“The Family Resource Center will ensure that patients and families will continue to receive state-of-the-art patient- and family-centered care,” Telischi said.

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