By Wendy Sarubbi | June 30, 2014 1:52 pm

Every 44 seconds, someone dies of heart disease. Many of those deaths could be prevented with more research, awareness and prevention measures, Dr. Deborah German, College of Medicine vice president for medical affairs and dean, told participants at UCF’s June 26 kickoff for this year’s American Heart Association Orlando Heart Walk.

The September 6 walk on the main UCF campus will raise money for heart research and treatment, and UCF’s goal is to raise $40,000 and recruit 400 walkers for the event. Dr. German is leading UCF’S 2014 team, and for her, the fight against heart disease is a personal one. Her father, Pat Campano, has faced heart valve disease and congestive heart failure, which would have proved deadly without new treatments developed through medical research. Today at age 85, he is remarkably active — hitting the links at the Burnett Classic Golf Tournament and catching a pass on the field during a game ball presentation at a Knights football game. “My father wouldn’t be here today without heart disease research,” Dr. German said, noting that her father had heart valve surgery more than 25 years ago. “He’s still here, and he’s gotten to see his grandchildren grow up, and now he has a great grandson. I am personally very excited to see what research can do in our families to have better and happier lives.”

She explained that participating in the walk helps UCF researchers as well as current and future heart patients. To date, the American Heart Association has provided almost $600,000 in research grants to UCF. “We have research going on right here in our own university that saves lives and will benefit from the money that we raise,” Dr. German said. She provided several examples: Dr. Dinender Singla of the College of Medicine’s Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences is researching the use of stem cells to repair diseased hearts; Dr. Sampath Parthasarathy, the College of Medicine’s interim associate dean for research, is an internationally known cardiovascular scientist who co-discovered the concept that LDL cholesterol blocks arteries. That work was nominated for the Nobel Prize.

The Kick-Off breakfast served as a motivating jump start for UCF team captains, who are beginning their fundraising and recruiting efforts. UCF Vice President for Community Relations Maritza Martinez encouraged participants to meet and exceed last year’s UCF fundraising total of $46,130.

UCF President John C. Hitt, is co-chair of the entire Orlando Heart Walk. Last year’s Orlando Heart Walk raised more than $1.2 million, with 627 walkers from UCF.

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