By Wendy Sarubbi | August 22, 2014 7:29 pm

More than 100 UCF College of Medicine students, faculty and staff members did a giant Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS “WAVE” on the Tavistock Green Friday, led by Dr. Deborah German, founding dean of the 6-year-old medical school.

Before dousing herself with ice water, Dr. German challenged every medical school dean in America and every dean of every college at UCF to do the same to raise awareness and research dollars for of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a neurodegenerative disease more commonly called Lou Gehrig’s disease.

She talked of the devastating impact ALS has “on our loved ones and our patients” and paid tribute to a former colleague, a rheumatologist who had cared for her mother, who “suffered through this horrendous disease with dignity through the very end.”

After the dean dumped a large blue bucket of ice water on her head, four rows of medical students, graduate students, their teachers and staff – some in their white coats – followed. The wave drew screams, gasps and cheers.

The College of Medicine’s inaugural class of internal medicine residents had challenged Dr. German and the entire medical school on Thursday. The University of South Florida’s medical school had done the same. So far the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has so far raised about $42 million.

The college-wide event was the idea of UCF medical student Xinwei Liu, president of the class of 2017. He said many students had received individual challenges from friends and family, but he wanted to organize a bigger event for the entire college that is training the next generation of physicians and scientists. “It shows we care. All of us came together and did this with our dean,” he said.

Dr. Stephen King, associate professor at the College of Medicine’s Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences, does research on neurodegenerative disease and participated in the challenge. As he stood dripping wet on the green, he said the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has shown people with ALS that they “are not alone. Those who suffer from it or have a loved one with ALS or know someone with ALS understand this disease,” he said. “But now the whole country has become aware.”

Dr. King’s research focus is on how neurons function and how neurodegenerative disease affects individual cells. He said science will unlikely find one overall cure for ALS because the disease manifests in different ways and from different biological causes. But he said the research goal is to understand how the disease impacts individual cells and then “if we can fix the cells, we can fix the entire person.”

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