Despite inches of rain and a muddy course, employees from Massachusetts General Hospital partnered with the American Heart Association to raise funds that support lifesaving heart and stroke research. The Heart Walk began at the Hatch Shell on the Charles River Esplanade, and Mass General employees raised over $40,000 for the cause.
"A very large number of people came together under the worst of circumstances and still kept their spirits high," says Stathis Antoniades, executive Heart Walk sponsor for Mass General and senior administrative director for the Heart Center.
The American Heart Association Boston Start! Heart Walk raises funds to advance treatments for heart disease and stroke, which remain the nation’s number one and number three causes of death. The organization has invested more than $2.9 billion in research since 1949 - and more than $1 billion in the last decade alone. This includes work on life-extending drugs, pacemakers, bypass surgeries, heart-lung machines, CPR and innovative surgical techniques to repair heart defects.
Mass General annually supports the Boston Start! Heart Walk and is fully aligned with the American Heart Association’s core missions - to support education for the prevention of heart disease and stroke, and to support the care of patients through research and treatment programs. "We feel that the American Heart Association's ability to reach out, particularly in the prevention and education of patients, is unparalleled. They bring tremendous value to the education of the general public," explains Antoniades.
Mass General also has an extensive research enterprise that pursues promising new treatments for heart and vascular patients. At any given time, the Heart Center and Vascular Center have over 250 active clinical trials. In the Cardiology Division alone, approximately 35,000 square feet is dedicated to basic science.
The hospital’s talented vascular clinicians also made an important contribution to the walk. Kathleen Hannon, technical director of the Vascular Diagnostic Lab, recruited 25 walkers for her group, and together they raised over $1,500 for the American Heart Association. "Mass General always has a strong inclination to give back to the community. I felt it was important to do my share too," says Hannon.
This year Mass General dedicated the Boston Start! Heart Walk to Alan Hilgenberg, MD, co-director of the Thoracic Aortic Center, who passed away last December. Hilgenberg was a leader in the field of cardiothoracic surgery and an expert in the surgical management of thoracic aortic aneurysms. Under Hilgenberg's leadership, the Thoracic Aortic Center quickly established itself as a model for integrated research and laid the foundation for the development of the Heart Center and Vascular Center.
"He went above and beyond his ability as a caring clinician and surgeon. Through innovations and marvelous work, his most lasting impact to Mass General was a vision for multidisciplinary care for patients with thoracic aortic disease," remarks Antoniades. "This is precisely what the Heart Center and Vascular Center represent, and we want to celebrate that."