Tulane Musters for Upcoming Heart Walk

September 13, 2004

Nick Marinello
Phone: (504) 865-5714

The Tulane Tutus are going to do it. So are the Pacemakers, Monkey Business and the Renal Funk Patrol.

heartwalkAnd come Sept. 18, organizers are hoping other groups and individuals around campus will join in the American Heart Association's Heart Walk.

For the second consecutive year, the Staff Advisory Council is coordinating the university's participation in the annual event.

Last year, 200 members of the Tulane community participated in the Heart Walk, with Tulane and its affiliated hospital raising nearly $24,000.

This year, campus organizers would like an even stronger support. To that end, they've come up with a new slogan, "Pump the Wave," are providing free T-shirts for all walkers and volunteers, and are sponsoring a pie-in-the-face contest to solicit donations.

As they did last year, council representatives Jose Alcaine, a section administrator in the nephrology section of the Department of Medicine, and Elise Legrand, a senior program coordinator in the Department of Medicine, are soliciting team captains to recruit walkers and volunteers.

This year, Rhonda Earles, deputy assistant to the chief of staff, is targeting captains for the uptown campus, and Cris Fontenot, an administrative secretary for the Division of Veterinary Medicine at the primate center, is recruiting walkers and volunteers on the Northshore.

Each captain will lead a team that typically comprises office or department coworkers and their constituents. And, apparently, the sillier the team name, the better. So far, the effort is going well.

"I have 47 captains signed up, and am hoping to get 50 or 60," said Legrand, who added that she'd like to see 100 percent participation in the Heart Walk. Not everyone may have either the stamina or the budget for the 5K walk and its $25 registration fee, but most everyone can buy a token heart for $1, she says.

And every dollar spent on a paper heart gives the donor voting power in a pie-in-the-face contest, said Suzanne Lossi, a program manager in the Office of the Senior Vice President for Health Sciences.

"The SAC is hosting a contest in which each paper heart purchased will give the donor a vote for someone to receive a pie in the face," said Lossi, who is serving as an intermediary between the Staff Advisory Council and Paul Whelton, the senior vice president for health sciences and this year's chair of the Heart Walk.

The university has made arrangements with UnitedHealthCare to sponsor free T-shirts for all walkers and anyone who volunteers to help at the event, said Lossi. And amidst all the fun, organizers are quick to note the seriousness of the event, which takes aim at cardiovascular disease.

According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer in the United States, claiming more lives each year than the next five leading causes of death combined. Michele Heckmann, an administrative secretary in the cardiology section of the Department of Medicine, knows this only too well. She lost both parents to cardiovascular disease within the last two years.

Last year, Heckmann agreed to help incoming cardiology section chief, Patrice Delafontaine, organize a section team. Because of her efforts, 32 members of the cardiology faculty, staff and their families walked in the event. Heckmann herself raised more than $3,800, the top fundraiser at Tulane and No. 3 citywide. She says she hopes to top that amount this year.

"I was the section cheerleader," jokes Heckmann, who sees the event not only as a boon to the fight against cardiovascular disease but also to department morale. In one instance, Paolo Raggi, professor of cardiology, agreed to match the funds raised by Heckmann.

Heckmann also believes the event goes a long way in public awareness, a mission the cardiology section will increasingly embrace through public outreach.

"The No. 1 symptom of cardiac disease is death," says Heckmann, suggesting the importance of preventive measures such as cholesterol and vascular screenings.

Anyone interested in becoming a team captain or sponsor should call Elise Legrande at 988-7802, Jose Alcaine at 988-5346, Rhonda Earles at 862-8335, Cris Fontenot at 985-871-6575, or log on to the Tulane Heart Walk website, The Heart Walk will take place in City Park at 8 a.m. on Sept. 18.

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000