Our History


For many years my heart patients have been asking me a question that still catches me unguarded:

“How can I give something back for the precious second chance I have been given?”

The sincerity and eagerness with which they come to me and their genuine desire to do something to express their gratitude always gives me pause. It is a true testament to the human spirit to see a patient not simply recover, but embrace life with renewed energy and hope. When a patient asks me how they can help others, I know my work is all but done.

The Gift of the Heart Foundation was founded in response to the many people who wanted to find a way to give back. Since the Foundation opened its doors in 1999, we have enjoyed the kind support of many individuals who have encouraged both our research projects and our educational mission — and whose generosity has made it possible for us to dream bigger than we ever imagined.

The exciting launch of the California Heart Center represents the fulfillment of a dream to create a truly integrated approach to cardiovascular medicine. But perhaps more importantly, the Center is a tribute to all of the people who paved the way with unfaltering hope and the certainty that together we could make a difference.

And so, together, we shall…

— Dr. Jon Kobashigawa


In 1952, Dr. Nobuyuki Kawata opened a small private practice in Inglewood, California and quickly established himself as one of the premiere practitioners in cardiology in southern California. In fact, Dr. Kawata went on to become the Chief of Medicine and Chief of Staff at Daniel Freeman Memorial Hospital in Inglewood.

In 1980, Dr. Kawata moved his practice to UCLA. Joining him at this time were Drs. Jon Kobashigawa and Jaime Moriguchi. Together they formally established University Cardiovascular Medical Group (UCMG). At UCLA, Dr. Kawata was instrumental in the development of the Heart Transplant Program, which is now among the world’s largest cardiac transplant programs.

Under Dr. Kawata’s leadership, UCMG became one of the few practices in the country that balanced private practice with academic medicine, growing to mirror the mission of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA in its dedication to teaching, research and patient care.


By 1999, UCMG had grown to include six outstanding physicians. In addition to maintaining a busy private cardiology practice, UCMG physicians had become an integral part of the UCLA Medical Enterprise with key leadership roles including:

Medical Director, UCLA Heart Transplant Program
Chief, Division of Clinical Faculty Medicine
Co-Directors, UCLA Clinical Heart Failure Program
Medical Director, Cardiac Rehabilitation Program

Deeply committed to research, the physicians of UCMG embraced clinical studies as critical to the advancement of cardiovascular medicine. With this in mind, UCMG physicians and patients collaborated on the establishment of the Gift of the Heart Foundation. A nonprofit medical research foundation, Gift of the Heart was designed to provide grant support to leading researchers in the field of cardiovascular disease.

In 2002, a large gift from a grateful patient created a unique opportunity for the Foundation to establish its own infrastructure for the conduct of clinical trials. Now, in addition to awarding research grants, the Foundation had the staff and resources to directly participate in research trials.

During the ensuing years, the Foundation sponsored or administered grants for a number of multi-center and single-center clinical research trials resulting in hundreds of abstracts and dozens of peer-reviewed publications.

In addition, the Foundation was able to dedicate more resources to its educational and patient programs, which now included monthly journal clubs, a transplant fellowship, continuing medical education symposia, heart failure preceptorships, patient support groups, a quarterly patient newsletter and annual patient seminars.


In 2005, the leadership of UCMG and the Gift of the Heart Foundation began to map out a plan to integrate their efforts. The goal was to create a collaborative environment where clinicians and researchers, patients and family members could work together to improve heart health.

In the process, these pioneers created a whole new model for the delivery of cardiac care.

Renowned physicians and highly trained staff delivering comprehensive, individualized care in a state-of-the-art facility that offers the latest in diagnostic testing and access to the newest research advances — this is the California Heart Center Foundation model.

This is the future of cardiovascular medicine
© Copyright 2021 - California Heart Center