By Wendy Sarubbi | March 18, 2014 2:22 pm

Drs. Juan Cendan and Judy Simms-Cendan rode because they’ve seen the debilitating effects of diabetes on their patients.

Finance Director Steve Omli, a triathlete, rode because he loves biking for a good cause.

Dr. Wilfredo Lopez-Ojeda rode in honor of his brother, who died at 32 from diabetes-induced kidney failure.

The College of Medicine faculty and staff members joined four medical students and about 1,200 others at March 16’s Tour de Cure bicycle ride for diabetes that raised more than $400,000 to fight the disease. Participants rode in 100-, 70-, 50-, 25- and 10-mile rides that all began at the UCF College of Medicine in Lake Nona as went as far as Haines City.

“It was a great experience riding with the students, and it was a lot of fun for a great cause,” said Dr. Simms-Cendan, who did the 50-mile trek, even enduring a spill when she and a medical student collided. “Except for the last five miles when we were up against heavy winds along Narcoossee Boulevard. I confess I was using language as I was pedaling that I’m glad no one else heard.”

Medical students Xinwei Liu, Angela DelPrete and Jessica Harrell trained for the 100-mile ride as they were studying for their first-year exams.

“Gratitude, fatigue, inspired, and a 16 mph headwind are just a few words that help summarize our overwhelming feelings about the Tour de Cure,” said Liu, the leader of the College of Medicine team that raised almost $2,400.

“Completing a century ride has always been on my bucket list since I started cycling, and to be able to cross the finish line in the presence of supportive friends was an unforgettable experience. Angela, Jessica, and I made friends with various local teams along the ride. We couldn’t have finished the ride without the support and inspiration of volunteers and those affected with diabetes along the 100-mile route.”

Many of the College of Medicine riders wore black and gold shirts designed by a medical student that were emblazoned on the back with the words, “Live, Learn, Ride.”

“As student-physicians, we believe it’s the little things that we do (outside of medical treatment) that can positively help those affected with any type of illness,” said Liu. “And riding with COM jerseys shows the community that we care.”

First-year M.D. student Rachel Wheatley did the 25-mile ride. A regular rider, she said she participated “because it’s important to spread awareness about diabetes.”  She was in the second start, which began around 9 a.m. Among the hundreds of other participants in that ride was Dr. Lopez-Ojeda, an assistant professor at the college’s Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences. “My brother died before he ever reached my age,” he said as he prepared for the 25-mile start. “So I have to do what I have to do.”

Lockheed Martin’s Mega Team raised over $54,000 – the most a team has ever raised for the Tour de Cure in Central Florida. Contributions are still being accepted and the local chapter of the American Diabetes Association hopes to ultimately raise half a million dollars to end diabetes, a disease that effects more than 26 million Americans.

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