The University of Tennessee Medical Center Recipient of Major Gift From Lottery Winner

Knoxville, Tennessee, UNITED STATES

KNOXVILLE, Tenn., Nov. 18, 2014 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- June 11 is a date Roy Cockrum will never forget – for two reasons. On June 11, 2010, he was confronted by the unknown; he was undergoing heart surgery at UT Medical Center to save his life. On the same date, but four years later, June 11, 2014, Cockrum was thrilled by the unknown; he won the lottery - $259.8 million as the Powerball Jackpot winner. What a difference four years can make.

And what a difference Cockrum made today for The University of Tennessee Medical Center when it was announced that he had made a $1 million endowed gift in honor of Dr. Thomas E. Gaines, the doctor who performed his heart surgery on that fateful day in 2010.

The Thomas E. Gaines, M.D. Professorship of Cardiothoracic Surgery Endowment, will support research, patient care and education for the Heart Lung Vascular Institute at The University of Tennessee Medical Center.

"This is all about gratitude," Cockrum said. "If Dr. Gaines and the team at UT Medical Center hadn't saved my life four years ago, I wouldn't have been here to buy that lottery ticket. These physicians help hundreds of people heal and enable them to go on to do great things in life. I'm thankful to be one of those individuals who is here today and able to pay it forward because of their expertise and commitment to caring for our community."

In addition, Cockrum bestowed Guardian Angel awards to Dr. Gaines; Dr. Dale Wortham, his cardiologist; and Dr. David Rankin, his primary care physician. Through the Guardian Angel program at the medical center, patients are able to recognize and honor physicians, nurses, volunteers and staff for providing excellent care.

"It has been my pleasure to be Roy Cockrum's heart surgeon and now I am deeply grateful that he has chosen to honor those of us who cared for him with this gift. Cardiac surgery is very much a team sport and I have been fortunate to have been a part of the cardiothoracic surgery team at UT for almost 25 years," said Gaines. "His generosity will help us learn new techniques, provide ongoing training for team members, and recruit talented people to join us. The gift will be a resource to fund research that can be conceived and carried out by our own colleagues here at UT and applied to the heart valve problems and other heart and chest diseases we seen here in East Tennessee."

The mission of The University of Tennessee Medical Center, the region's only hospital to achieve status as a Magnet® recognized organization, is to serve through healing, education and discovery. UT Medical Center, a 581-bed, not-for-profit academic medical center, serves as a referral center for Eastern Tennessee, Southeast Kentucky and Western North Carolina. The medical center, the region's only Level I Trauma Center, is one of the largest employers in Knoxville. For more information about The University of Tennessee Medical Center, visit online at

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