Veronica Jones, a campus security officer with the UTHSC Campus Police Department, has been an awareness advocate for heart disease for 11 years.
“It’s personal for me,” she said. “My mother, father, brother, cousins, and brother-in-law have passed away from heart disease, so every moment that I get to spread awareness about it, I do so with passion and urgency. I want people to know that help and preventive resources are available to fight this devastating disease.”
About 655,000 Americans die from heart disease each year—that’s one in every four deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Officer Jones is among the many team members at UTHSC, who are working with the American Heart Association (AHA) to spread awareness about heart disease and other cardiovascular-related conditions. She is encouraging the campus community to join her as she leads fundraising efforts for the for the AHA’s 2021 Mid-South Heart Walk. Participants can either complete the walk in their own neighborhoods or at any of the eight AHA-designated parks (Raleigh Town Center, Bert Ferguson, Hickory Hill, Glen View, Audubon, Dalstrom, Douglass, and Overton). Registration and masks are required.
Officer Jones usually serves on the UTHSC Heart Walk committee under the direction of the Special Events team, but due to the pandemic, the committee did not meet. “Hearts Up, Living Life” will serve as the official UTHSC team for 2021. The group, led by Officer Jones, has raised more than $1,200 of its $3,000 team goal. A campus-wide goal of $15,000 has been set. Proceeds will go toward heart disease, stroke, and COVID-19-related research efforts. In 2019, UTHSC was among the top three companies to raise the most donations for the event and is in the Top 3 again this year. The university did not participate in the organization’s virtual event in 2020.
The deadline for donations is on or before Wednesday, April 21. Cash donations and personal checks are being accepted at the security desk in the Hyman Building by Officer Jones and Officer Gale Ware. All checks should be made out to the American Heart Association. In the memo section, please note that funds are for the 2021 Heart Walk.
John L. Jefferies, MD, MPH, Jay M. Sullivan Endowed Chair in Cardiovascular Medicine and chief of Cardiology at UTHSC is another UTHSC leader in the AHA cause. He is the co-chair of Doctors with Heart, a fundraising collective for medical professionals in the Memphis area. Members focus on fundraising, new information, and community engagement initiatives regarding cardiovascular diseases.
“We will take great strides in making Memphis healthier by having direct impact on blood pressure control, nutrition security, and CPR training for our teens,” Dr. Jefferies said. “We will advocate for health policies that impact our neighborhoods and celebrate the groundbreaking work of the AHA.”