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Family’s long history with VUMC leads to cardiology directorship

Aug. 8, 2019, 9:18 AM

Steve Riven, left, and his wife, Jan, here with Thomas Wang, MD, have established a directorship in cardiology in memory of Riven’s father, Samuel Riven, MD, who served on the Vanderbilt faculty for more than 50 years.
Steve Riven, left, and his wife, Jan, here with Thomas Wang, MD, have established a directorship in cardiology in memory of Riven’s father, Samuel Riven, MD, who served on the Vanderbilt faculty for more than 50 years. (photo by John Russell)

by Matt Batcheldor

Steve Riven lives and breathes Vanderbilt.

He grew up nearby. He remembers his father, Samuel Riven, MD, a prominent cardiologist at Vanderbilt, taking him and his two sisters to class at Peabody Demonstration School (now University School of Nashville) each day on his way to work. Steve Riven went on to complete his undergraduate education at Vanderbilt University and enjoys attending lectures, musical performances and sporting events on campus to this day.

“Seventeen years of my life revolved around Peabody and Vanderbilt, right in that two- to three-block area,” he said. “I was born there, grew up there. My broken arms, stiches, etc. were all done at Vanderbilt.”

His father, who died in 1995 at 93, devoted more than a half-century of service to his patients at Vanderbilt. Now, to honor him, Steve Riven is making a gift in his memory to create the Samuel S. Riven, MD, Directorship in Cardiology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. The directorship will support a clinical leader in the Department of Medicine, to be chosen through VUMC’s normal selection process.

“We are incredibly grateful to the Rivens for their generous gift, which both commemorates Dr. Riven’s contributions to Vanderbilt and to his patients, and enables us to recognize clinical and academic excellence among our faculty for many generations to come,” said Thomas Wang, MD, Gottlieb C. Friesinger II Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine and director of the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine.

Steve Riven, who was a co-founder and senior managing partner of local investment banking firm Avondale Partners LLC, served on the VUMC Advisory Board from 2003 to 2009. He said he has never felt better about any decision than the one to honor his father, an honor he has been working toward for years.

“I wanted to do it during my lifetime, because I want to reap the rewards of seeing this done, not done through my estate,” said Riven, who has been married to his wife, Jan, for more than 53 years. “So we did it. It is the best feeling ever.”

Samuel Riven was born in Montreal, Canada, in 1902 and came to the United States after graduating medical school at McGill University. After completing his residency and internship at the University of Michigan, he came to Vanderbilt in 1930 as one of the first members of the clinical faculty in the Department of Medicine. He was deeply involved with research, education and patient care, and put particular focus on teaching and training.

“He liked that role,” Steve Riven said. “He liked to teach.” Dr. Riven also saw patients in a private practice in the Medical Arts Building.

Steve Riven smiles when he ponders what his father would think of the honor. He remembers when he and his mother created  a visiting professorship in his father’s name in the mid 1980s, and seeing his reaction. “It lifted his spirits like you wouldn’t believe,” he said. “It would have been a surreal experience if he knew he had a directorship at this great medical center.”

Nancy Brown, MD, Hugh J. Morgan Professor and chair of the Department of Medicine, worked with Samuel Riven during his tenure.

“Sam Riven was a fixture in the Vanderbilt Department of Medicine during the middle of the last century,” she said. “He particularly loved cardiovascular medicine and would have been thrilled by the way his family has honored him.”

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