If you asked Dr. Robert Sanchez what he was going to be when he grew up, the answer was always “a doctor.” But it was the sudden loss of his beloved grandfather that defined his career and his passion for training hundreds of thousands of people to be lifesavers as well.

It is in recognition of his exceptional career and commitment to building an army of lifesavers that the American Heart Association (AHA) has named Dr. Sanchez as the 2018 Physician of the Year. This award acknowledges practicing physicians who champion the AHA’s mission of building healthier lives and making a difference in the community.

Dr. Sanchez, a cardiologist at The Heart Institute in St. Petersburg and director of cardiovascular medicine at HCA West Florida’s Northside Hospital, grew up in New York and as a child battled severe asthma, nearly dying at the age of two.

“My family doctor was an incredible physician and actually served as a mentor for me as I went through elementary, middle and high school; and even in college, I would still be in contact with him,” Dr. Sanchez said. “He certainly reinforced my decision of being a doctor.”

Another key influencer on Dr. Sanchez’s decision to become a doctor was when his grandfather tragically died of sudden cardiac arrest. “That had a significant impact on me,” he said. “I wanted to take care of heart attacks; I wanted to save people from cardiac arrest; and I could never see myself doing anything else.”

Over the years, Dr. Sanchez has been deeply involved with the AHA and his community. Partnering with leadership in all three Tampa Bay school districts – Hillsborough, Pasco, and Pinellas – Dr. Sanchez led the effort to make CPR training a graduation requirement. “Sudden cardiac death remains a leading cause of death in the United States,” he said. “It accounts for more than 350,000 deaths each year.”

According to Dr. Sanchez, putting a dent in this statistic requires prompt, effective CPR. And thanks to his leadership and the new education policy, 25,000 students are trained to be lifesavers every year.

In addition to a focus on CPR training in schools, Dr. Sanchez and the Tampa Bay Metro Board set out to train 150,000 new lifesavers in hands-only CPR in three years. By the end of 2017, they had trained a total of 220,000 people in hands-only CPR, far exceeding their goal.

“It was an amazing accomplishment that could not have happened without the passion and dedication of the many AHA volunteers and staff, our local first responders, and community leaders,” said Dr. Sanchez. “And truly, I share this award with all of them.”

The AHA will present Dr. Sanchez with the 2018 Physician of the Year award during a luncheon on Wednesday, June 27 in Plano, Texas.

“Words cannot express how honored I am to be receiving this prestigious award,” Dr. Sanchez said. “It’s certainly humbling to be included amongst the many physicians who have been recipients of this award before me – physicians that I have the upmost respect for and whose work has influenced my practice of medicine.”

Upon hearing of Dr. Sanchez’s award, Ted Johnson, group vice president for HCA Physician Services Group said, “I’m delighted to learn of the AHA’s recognition of Dr. Sanchez and join in their celebration of his leadership and broad impact to the care and treatment of patients not only in West Florida, but across the country. I’m thrilled for Bob and proud to call him a friend and colleague.”

Dr. Sanchez completed his undergraduate studies at Stony Brook University – SUNY of Long Island. He then went on to medical school at New York University School of Medicine. After that, he completed his internal medicine residency and cardiology fellowship at Long Island Jewish Medical Center. When he finished his fellowship training in 1991, he moved to Florida where he was in private practice and on staff at several HCA-affiliated hospitals. In 2010, Dr. Sanchez and his group made the decision to join HCA Physician Services Group.

“I’m proud to be part of an organization with a mission (and values) statement that really reflects the same standards that I hold myself to,” he said. “Being a physician means being a servant first. It requires a tremendous amount of sacrifice, so it’s important to go into it for the right reasons and to never forget why you chose to be a doctor.”

Congratulations, Dr. Sanchez!

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HCA 50th Anniversary
In 1968, HCA Healthcare was conceived by two physicians and an accomplished business leader — Dr. Thomas Frist Sr., Dr. Thomas Frist Jr., and Jack Massey. This year, HCA celebrates its golden anniversary and the culture of caring established by our three founders 50 years ago. To help us celebrate our 50th year, we’ll share stories here that reflect HCA’s mission – above all else, the care and improvement of human life – and our pledge to improve life and make history for the next 50 years and beyond.