The Ciccarone Center
In 1988, Henry Ciccarone volunteered to be a spokesperson
for the Hopkins Family Heart Disease Prevention Program. Two
heart attacks had transformed the legendary lacrosse leader and
former standout player from a pack-a-day smoker and intense coach
into a model of a healthy diet and fitness regime. So he agreed
to appear in a television campaign urging people with a history
of heart disease in their families to have heart screenings.
Ciccarone never got a chance to tape the spots. A third
heart attack ended his life in November of that year. He was 50.
Ciccarone, or "Chic" as he was known to many, did, however, leave a legacy of determination and hard work to his many friends, players and students who knew him.
His association with the Hopkins Athletic Department spanned more than 20 years; he was a three-time All-American midfielder, and his record as head coach from 1975 to 1983 was 105 wins and 16 losses. His teams appeared in seven consecutive NCAA championships and won three straight national titles. In 1987, he was named to the Lacrosse Hall of Fame.
"He was a sort of a mythical, magical character in his achievements," said Diane Becker, who was a student when Ciccarone was a star player and is now director of the Hopkins Center for Health Promotion. "Everybody knew who he was. He was a Hopkins celebrity.
"He stood for something to all of us," Becker added. "He unified Hopkins when we all tend to be diverse. His image caused people to rally across the whole university."
A group of family members and friends continued to rally after Ciccarone's death, working to raise funds and consciousness for the establishment of the Henry Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease.
Roger S. Blumenthal was a student journalist with The News-Letter during Ciccarone's coaching days. He later became an assistant director of sports information and a close friend of the Hopkins icon. Blumenthal was instrumental in the creation of the Ciccarone Center, which will celebrate eight years of service this year.
"Chic's name was synonymous with excellence at Hopkins," said Blumenthal, who was named co-director of the center last year. "He embodied what the university is supposed to represent, including an intense competitive nature, loyalty and friendship."
The center was established to identify risk factors for coronary heart disease, manage and decrease those risks factors, and educate doctors, health counselors and patients. To that end, the center has published scores of research aimed at educating the medical community and the general public about heart disease, the leading killer in the United States.
A recent finding of the center is the identification of the first inherited risk factor for blood clots involved in heart attacks, especially in people under 60. The risk factor may be a faulty form of an adhesive protein that could promote clots, blocking coronary blood vessels already blocked by fatty deposits. This form is present in about 20 percent of the population and may be detected by a simple blood test.
Paul F. Bray, an associate professor of medicine and pathology and co-senior author of the study, said patients could take anti-clotting medicine, lower their cholesterol and quit smoking to reduce the risks of blood clots.
Becker has been involved with the center since its inception, participating in research including a thorough sibling study that confirmed a higher occurrence of heart disease among the brothers and sisters of heart patients. Eighty percent of siblings have a significant risk factor, Becker said.
Additional research has included studies about menopausal women, diabetes patients and those with no established history of heart diseases. Clinical studies have been done on patients' reactions to mental stresses and heart transplant patients. Becker, who has a background in general medicine, explained that experts from cardiology and other areas of Hopkins have been afforded the opportunities to work together.
"The Ciccarone Center has served as a magnet," she said. "Researchers have rallied around a core of motivation, expertise and common interests in the prevention of heart disease. Without the center there, that probably wouldn't have happened."
Those who knew him say the center is a fitting tribute to Henry Ciccarone.
"The way Chic motivated his players is the way good physicians motivate their patients," Blumenthal said. "They focus on the positive, trying to achieve goals of lowering cholesterol and weight. Chic really wanted to help people realize that they could do a lot to help heart disease from developing."
The center is supported, in large part, by two annual fundraising events; a spring golf tournament and a winter dance known as "Heartfest," which will be held on Saturday, Feb. 1, at the Hyatt Regency at the Inner Harbor. The event will feature heart-healthy gourmet foods prepared by chefs from restaurants throughout the city, a wine tasting, music and dancing. Additionally, experts from Hopkins and guest speakers will offer preventive information and recent findings about newly discovered risk factors of heart disease.
Tickets for Heartfest are $60 and may be reserved by calling (410)893-5189. Proceeds will benefit the Ciccarone Center.
John Cramer of the JHMI Office of Communications and Public Affairs contributed to this story.
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