Photo of my father, Dr. Robert H. Aten

School of Medicine employee has personal stake in success of Oct. 12 fundraising event at Camden Yards.

On Saturday, Oct. 12, at 10 a.m. at the Camden Yards Sports Complex, the American Heart Association (AHA) is holding its annual Greater Maryland Heart and Stroke Walk. In this article, Diane Aten, MS, associate director of development, University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM), talks about why it is important and how people from the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) can participate.

My father, Dr. Robert H. Aten, had his first heart attack when he was 46, younger than most of my friends. He had congestive heart failure and over the years needed many surgeries, including five-way and three-way open-heart bypasses and stents to keep him alive. He lived with a pacemaker and defibrillator in his chest, and we called him “the bionic man.” I am grateful to his cardiologist of more than 30 years who was trained at our School of Medicine. He saw my dad through numerous challenges and saved his life many times over.

My family has these issues on both sides. My mother has pulmonary hypertension and we have lost many family members to heart disease and stroke.

One time, my father was on the operating table, after just having a stent put into his heart. The surgeon looked me dead in my eyes and said, “You know this is a hereditary disease.” I stopped in my tracks and knew at that moment I must do everything I can to learn how to take care of my heart, including exercising and eating right.

Reflecting on this, I recall that my father encouraged my two sisters and me to work out, and we went roller-skating as a family. We also never used table salt growing up and learned about healthy eating. I didn’t pay much attention then, but today I know how critical this is for my own well-being.

My research found that heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death in America, and I am very motivated to do something about it. My participation in AHA’s Oct. 12 Heart and Stroke Walk brings awareness to the issues and promotes fun ways to be physically active and make healthier choices every day. Imagine the impact if we can reduce death and disability from cardiovascular diseases and stroke by 20 percent by 2020. Together, we can make healthier, longer lives possible for everyone.

I work for the Department of Medicine at UMSOM and am motivated to do my work every day to help people like my father. I have a team for the Oct. 12 event and am walking in honor of all UMSOM’s cardiovascular medicine patients, in memory of my father (pictured here), and for my own good health!

All funds raised for the 2019 Greater Maryland Heart and Stroke Walk benefit AHA and help fund innovative research, advocacy, and patient support.

AHA supports the University System of Maryland through 14 active research projects totaling $2.96 million that are actively funded at USM research facilities because of funds raised by AHA in Maryland. We are gratefully joining their efforts to do something about this deadly disease.

Jimmy Mszanski of URecFit is organizing UMB’s Walk Committee overall and leads a URecFit walk team. Other team captains who also serve on the committee include: Brenda Killen (Cardiovascular Medicine); Katelyn Callaghan (School of Pharmacy’s Operation Heart); Susan Prentice (School of Nursing); Devon Prater (School of Social Work); Jina Bacchus (Human Resources); TaShara Bailey (CURE Scholars and Graduate School); and I have a team (UMSOM).  Additionally, Ana Duarte is leading the FC Hearts. UMB Communications and Public Affairs is doing an amazing job and we especially appreciate the input, ideas, and support from Laura Kozak, Hope Wallace, Angela Everett-Jackson, Libby Zay, Joanne Morrison, and many others.

Heart disease and stroke impacts everyone. Community members, UMB CURE Scholars, staff, faculty, and students from each of our schools are walking in the Heart and Stroke Walk. Learn more and look for the UMB teams to register for free for the walk at the link below.

I look forward to seeing you on Oct. 12!   

Register here

Disclaimer: Elm Voices & Opinions articles reflect the thoughts or opinions of their individual authors, and may not represent the thoughts or values of UMB as an institution.

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