General News
Posted March 22, 2010
ACH Announces Heart Screening Program for Hillsborough County High School Students
Coach Tony Dungy Supports Program that Saves Young Lives through Education and Awareness

All Children's Specialty Physicians, in collaboration with The Cardiac Arrhythmia Syndromes (CAS) Foundation and Hillsborough County Public Schools today unveiled The SafeBeat Initiative. The Initiative will begin an awareness campaign to provide heart screenings to all Hillsborough County high school students beginning March 2010, at no charge to the student, parent, or school district.

“The SafeBeat Initiative will offer heart screening services to more than 60,000 Hillsborough County high school students beginning now and lasting through the 2011-2012 school year,” said Gwen Luney, Hillsborough County Public Schools Assistant Superintendent for Student Services & Federal Programs. “This is a voluntary, opt-in program that requires parental consent. The results will be private and reported only to the parent.”

“As immediate past School Board Chair, I was honored to spearhead this project that has the potential to literally save the lives of our students in the Tampa Bay area,” said Carol Kurdell, member of the Hillsborough County School Board. “Our board voted unanimously to host the first free heart screening program ever conducted in Florida and we are excited to begin this process today.”

Each year more than 7,000 children and adolescents in the United States die from Sudden Cardiac Arrest. In fact, 4 out of 5 victims of Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) appeared healthy and had no symptoms prior to death. Without symptoms, an EKG (electrocardiogram) based heart screening is the best way to detect the potential life threatening condition.

“A doctor's code of ethics requires us to do all that we can do to preserve life and I strongly believe that the SafeBeat Initiative does exactly that,” said Gul Dadlani, M.D., Medical Director of Pediatric Cardiology at All Children's Hospital. “The total research data that is collected through the Initiative will be invaluable and the first of its kind in this field. Not only will the initiative save lives, it will provide unique statistics to benefit our children and their children.”

“I have done a lot of work with young people all my life,” said Tony Dungy, former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach. “There are too many incredibly sad stories of young players dying on the athletic field due to undetected heart problems. “Heart screenings saves lives and I applaud the SafeBeat Initiative in creating awareness and education here in Florida,” continued Dungy, who attended the Initiative's unveiling.

The heart screening program includes four components; Education, Emergency Action Plans, Heart Screening Services and Follow-up Care. Students will have a risk factor assessment, CPR and AED training, blood pressure, body mass index and electrocardiogram (ECG) tests conducted, and expedited appointments through All Children's Specialty Physicians including those who are under or un-insured. No student will be denied follow-up care based on their ability to pay.

“I lost my son Marc due to a cardiac abnormality, said Jayne Vining, who started the CAS Foundation in Marc's memory. “No parent should ever go through this, especially when measures are readily available to prevent sudden death in our children and grandchildren.”

“The SafeBeat Initiative has brought together the medical and education community in order to provide this life saving test,” said Michelle Shimberg, President of the Plant High School Parent Teacher Student Association. “It is important that we as parents become involved by serving as advocates and getting our kids signed up for screening – there is no excuse not to do it today.”

Plant High School, where the first of seven local high school screenings will take place, begins Monday, March 29 through Friday, April 2. Each high school will screen for a full week and during the school day. The remaining schools include Robinson (April 5-9), Steinbrenner (April 19-23), Middleton (April 26-30), Alonso (May 3-7), King (May 17-21) and Leto (May 24-28). Parents or guardians are encouraged to go to to register their high school student to get tested.

“We are excited to have seven Hillsborough County high schools scheduled for onsite screenings this school year,” said Bill Hogan, Florida Director of the SafeBeat Initiative. “We look forward to scheduling the remaining Hillsborough County high schools for their screenings beginning in the new school year and will be back again at Plant and all of the high schools in the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 school years. It is our goal to start screening in other local county high schools within the All Children's Hospital services area over the next year as well."

Attendees and media were also shown a demonstration of the heart screening process by Pete Grasso, Florida Operation's Manager of the SafeBeat Initiative, Casey Yanson, EKG Technician, the SafeBeat Initiative, and Connor Shimberg, a senior at Plant High School.

About The Cardiac Arrhythmia Syndromes (CAS) Foundation
The CAS Foundation is a 501(c) (3) not for profit corporation founded by Jayne Vining in memory and honor of her son Marc who died of a congenital heart defect. Its mission is to prevent sudden death in youth and adolescents from Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA). The Foundation works to educate people about the dangers of SCA and believes once fully understood will save families from the grief of losing a child to an undetected heart defect. Contributions to the Foundation allows for the ability to provide for free heart screenings at the local level. For more information, please visit .

About The SafeBeat Initiative
The Initiative is a national program launched by the CAS Foundation that establishes local Heart Screening and Emergency Action Planning programs. This partnership with local hospitals, medical professionals, schools and business allows for EKG based Heart Screening programs and customized emergency plans and training to be brought to communities throughout the country. Go to for additional information, including local high school screening dates and registration.

About Hillsborough County Public Schools
Hillsborough County Public Schools is the third largest school district in Florida and the eighth largest in the United States, with approximately 207,000 students in pre-k through adult programs. The school district is the largest employer in Hillsborough County, with more than 15,000 certified teachers and a total workforce of nearly 25,000 employees. HCPS received an A grade from the State of Florida based on student achievement in 2007-2008 and 2008-2009. For additional information, go to .