By Matthew Vaccaro | September 15, 2015 4:01 pm

UCF’s main campus was flooded with nearly 20,000 walkers September 12 who raised money to battle heart disease at the 2015 Greater Orlando Heart Walk.  The event  holds particular significance for the College of Medicine, whose faculty research cardiac disease and provide treatment to its sufferers. Each year, Dr. Deborah German, vice president for medical affairs and dean of the medical school, makes it a point to walk with her father, Pat Campano. Now 88, Campano is living proof of the value of research – his two artificial heart valves hadn’t been discovered when he first suffered symptoms of cardiac disease.

“They turn 30 on October 10,” the family patriarch said of the valves which treated his congestive heart failure.  “My wife assures me that they are working, because she can hear them clicking at night.”

Campano is known for being active at UCF events, from golf tournaments to football games—and still walks over 2 miles home from the grocery store twice a week. “I think walking is the best thing you can do, health-wise, and as you get older, I think it’s more important,” he said

UCF Health cardiologist Dr. Bernard Gros treats Campano at the College of Medicine physician practice, and added that walking is one of the most important ways to prevent heart disease. “It’s one of the things I tell my patients every day: You need to be doing at least 150 minutes of physical activity a week,” he said while participating in the heart walk. “Doing an event like this hopefully shows people how easy it can be to get active.

The 5K walking route circled the entire UCF campus, finishing on Memory Mall near Bright House Stadium. UCF team organizer and Associate Vice President and Director of UCF Community Relations Maritza Martinez said the university was proud to host such a large community event. “Inviting 20,000 people to our campus is a great opportunity for UCF to showcase the campus and really immerses them in the UCF environment,” she said. UCF participants raised nearly $40,000, contributing to total more than $1 million raised by the entire walk.

The College of Medicine’s Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences focuses its research on the diseases that plague humanity – including cardiovascular disease, America’s Number 1 killer.  Burnett School Associate Professor Dr. Shadab Siddiqi, who participated in the walk, was recently awarded a $1.27 million National Institutes of Health grant for his research into the prevention of heart disease through regulating lipoproteins produced by the liver. The American Heart Association is also funding other research projects at the medical school, including providing grants to four College of Medicine students who are researching heart disease.

As a physician who treats patients with cardiac disease, Dr. Gros reiterated the importance of research. “Unfortunately millions of Americans suffer from heart disease, and we need to continue to raise awareness and revenue to support the research to find better cures for the disease,” he said.

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