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UC Davis shows big heart for good cause

By Dave Jones on February 11, 2014 in University

On the Hutchison Intramural Field, in classrooms, offices and labs, in a pediatrics ward, in The Pavilion and at a red dress fashion show — UC Davis came together Friday (Feb. 7) to raise awareness of heart disease and ways to help prevent it.

We showed our spirit as a community, united in a common cause, on this first UC Davis Wears Red Day, celebrated on the Davis and Sacramento campuses.

Thousands of us in our special T-shirts tried to break the world record for the largest heart formation. We stood for an hour on the intramural field — not caring about the light rain.

We came up short on the record — but no one seemed to mind.

“We had so much fun,” said Danelle Eslinger, a first-year student. “Just being out here with friends, being with so many people who care about this cause.”

She said she also liked the fundraising angle: One dollar from every shirt sale went to the UC Davis Women’s Cardiovascular Medicine Program. As of Friday, UC Davis Stores reported having sold nearly 8,000 shirts.

Later on Friday, after participating in the heart formation and speaking at the Battle Heart Disease Fair that followed, Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi hosted another fundraiser, The Power of Red: Cocktails & Couture, benefiting the Women’s Cardiovascular Medicine Program and the Department of Design.

Held in the Yocha Dehe Grand Lobby of the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, the event included a red carpet runway for models in elegant, red dresses — created by Adele Zhang's design students.

Try, try again?

About 2,500 people came out for the heart formation, not enough to fill the inside of the heart — but enough for an impressive photo when people bunched together on the chalk outline, five to six deep (after taking off their jackets and putting down their umbrellas, so we could see everyone's red shirts). A photo on the UC Davis Facebook page had garnered more than 2,500 "likes" by the end of the weekend.

Participants were already talking about coming back next year — though nothing had been decided about a repeat.

Chancellor Katehi, for one, thinks there should be a second annual. “Absolutely,” she said as she stood in the heart formation, wearing a clear red poncho over her UC Davis heart T-shirt.

Eslinger said she will be back next year and the year after and the year after ... until, in her senior year, we break the record (which today stands at 11,066).

Looking at the red all over UC Davis on Friday, you could argue we have the support to do it.

Many of Friday’s participants came in groups, from their offices, like Student Housing. “We want to support the campus in breaking the world record,” Joann Wilson said.

The provost’s office made its own heart formation in front of Mrak Hall before walking to the Hutchison field.

Other staff members supported the effort from afar — for example, the Comparative Pathology Laboratory on Old Davis Road, south of Interstate 80.

“One of our own staff members suffered a heart attack late last year, and she’s made an amazing recovery,” lab manager Gene Dunn wrote in an email. He and others in the lab wore red to show their support for their coworker, Kacey Donovan-Bruce.

“We are so thankful to have her back,” Dunn told Dateline UC Davis.

'Enthusiasm and energy'

UC Davis Wears Red Day coincided with National Wear Red Day, sponsored annually on the first Friday in February by The Heart Truth (National Institutes of Health) and Go Red for Women (American Heart Association).

The initiatives aim to remind that heart disease is the leading cause of death among women — thus the “red dress” symbolism.

Since 2006, the UC Davis Women’s Cardiovascular Medicine Program has joined in with its Women’s Heart Care Education and Awareness Forum, and design students have debuted a red dress collection at the forum every year since 2010.

This year, Chancellor Katehi expanded on those efforts by declaring “UC Davis Wears Red Day” across the university, promoting heart health among women and men. Activities on the Sacramento campus included a resource fair, a noontime walk and a series of "20-Minute Heart Talks."

The UC Davis Children's Hospital hosted a Build-a-Bear Workshop, during which patients picked out partially completed stuffed animals and finished them by putting hearts inside. UC Davis surgeons and medical students then sewed up the bears for the children.

Cardiologist Amparo Villablanca, founder and director of the Women’s Cardiovascular Medicine Program, liked what she saw on both sides of the causeway.

“I am deeply moved by the enthusiasm and energy that UC Davis showed for the heart health message,” she said. “Everywhere you looked, people were wearing red, and thousands braved the rain, wind and cold to help us try to beat the world record for the world's largest heart. We look forward to building on that success next year.”

Villablanca’s program is in its 20th year, having been the nation’s first program dedicated to researching and treating heart disease in women.

In her outreach efforts, Villablanca encourages heart healthy lifestyles in women of all ages, because cardiovascular disease in women sets in well before symptoms become apparent — another reason she was pleased to see UC Davis students show such overwhelming support for the heart health cause.


UC Davis Women’s Cardiovascular Medicine Program

The Heart Truth (National Institutes of Health)

Go Red for Women (American Heart Association)

Men and Heart Disease (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Follow Dateline UC Davis on Twitter.


Media contact(s)

Dave Jones, Dateline, 530-752-6556,