‘You Can Help, So Why Not?’: Troy Alumnus Dedicates His Life to Saving Kids Around the World
If someone had asked Dr. William Novick what the most rewarding part of his job was a decade ago, the pediatric heart surgeon would have said the look on a parent’s face when he tells them their child’s surgery was successful.
But today, the greatest reward is having former patients send him pictures of their babies, he said.
Dr. Novick, medical director, founder and CEO of The William Novick Global Cardiac Alliance and an alumnus of the Sigma-Tau chapter of Lambda Chi at Troy University, has dedicated his life to helping children in underdeveloped countries around the world.
“Knowing that the children we’ve operated on are now having their own children, that really shows the level of success we’ve had with this program,” he said.
When Dr. Novick started school at Troy in south Alabama, he was rushed by several different fraternities, he said. But a chance meeting with an older post-grad named Robert Cauthen, a University of Georgia alum, changed his path forever.
Cauthen told Dr. Novick all about Lambda Chi and introduced him to a former pledge at Birmingham Southern who was planning to transfer to Troy.
“The three of us got to talking and we had this idea of filing for a chapter (at Troy),” Dr. Novick said.
The Sigma-Tau chapter was founded by 14 original members, including Novick.
Following his graduation from Troy, Dr. Novick headed to the University of Alabama – Birmingham where he earned a Master’s degree in biochemistry and a medical degree. He completed his general surgery residency at the Graduate Hospital at the University of Pennsylvania.
After six years in Philadelphia, Dr. Novick headed back to Alabama to work as a surgeon before spending two years as the only pediatric surgeon on a team of seven cardiothoracic surgeons at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Women and Children in Orlando, Fla.
That’s when the University of Tennessee came calling.
“I wanted to pursue academics, and they wanted to develop an international program” Dr. Novick said.
He had just developed an international program in Orlando, so it was a good fit, he said.
“At the time, literally, this international concept had exploded,” he said.
In 1999, a wealthy woman from Philadelphia offered to endow a professorship at Tennessee, but only if Dr. Novick would receive it.
“In 2001, I went full time in providing the services outlined in the professorship, which were that I dedicate my life to service for others in countries that did not have reasonable pediatric heart surgery,” he said.
He was also expected to pursue academics by writing, publishing and presenting, and build or improve heart surgery programs in developing and transitional countries.
The program sends teams around the world to operate on 500-800 kids every year, Dr. Novick said.
To fund that travel, he created two charities — the International Children’s Heart Foundation from 1993 to 2014, and The William Novick Global Cardiac Alliance, which he founded in 2014.
“I’ve been doing this for so long that my name and our two different groups have become synonymous with helping kids round the world with heart disease, so we’ll receive requests,” Dr. Novick said.
They aren’t just flying in, doing the work and flying out. They’re training the locals as well.
“Our feeling is it’s always great to operate on a kid and have them survive and make mom and dad and grandma and grandpa happy,” he said. “But what about the next kid that’s born? If we don’t train the local team, what’s going to happen when we walk away?”
Dr. Novick credits Lambda Chi as his inspiration for doing the work he does.
“One of the things that a fraternity teaches you is that we’re all in the same boat together, and if you cannot help your fellow man in a time of need, then your purpose on earth is somewhat diminished,” he said.
“It is a big brotherhood, and we need to think of the entire world that way. No matter where that person is and no matter what the problem is, you can help, so why not?”
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