The Doctor as Advocate

January 24, 2020

As a pediatric cardiologist working in Milwaukee 20 years ago, Stuart Berger, MD, was shocked when five local high school athletes suffered sudden cardiac arrests (SCAs) in less than a year – three of them fatal. “I spoke with colleagues and said that rather than just scratching our heads and saying, “What a shame,’ we should do something about it,” he says.


Dr. Stuart Berger with heart patient Sekai. Dr. Berger founded Project ADAM 20 years ago.

According to Dr. Berger, Head of the Division of Cardiology, for every minute an SCA victim is left untreated, their survival rate decreases by 10 percent, making immediate intervention by someone trained in CPR or the use of an automated external defibrillator essential. Thus was born the CPR-AED training program Project ADAM, which now has 20 hospital affiliates, and is credited with saving more than 140 lives nationwide.

At Lurie Children’s, Project ADAM is a collaboration between the Heart Center and the Healthy Communities initiative. Since February 2019, over 4,363 individuals have undergone CPR training though the program, including 1,637 students. In Illinois, CPR training is mandatory for high school graduation.

Dr. Berger, who also serves as Project ADAM’s National Medical Director, notes that additional funding is necessary to expand the program in Chicago.

“Watching kids die on the basketball court or the soccer field is not an option anymore,” he says.